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Russia World Cup kicks off with dazzling display at Luzhniki Stadium

World Cup kicks off with dazzling display in Moscow as Robbie Williams shocks fans by giving them the middle finger live on TV

  • The World Cup gets underway as host nation Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the first match at 4pm BST
  • Ahead of kick off, Russia delivered a stunning opening ceremony, in which a host of stars performed
  • The United Kingdom were well represented as pop star Robbie Williams performed at Luzhniki Stadium
  • Ex-Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony

By Glen Williams For Mailonline

Published: 10:33 EDT, 14 June 2018 | Updated: 11:55 EDT, 14 June 2018

The World Cup kicked off in truly lavish fashion as host nation Russia put on a star-studded display at the opening ceremony to officially commence the start of the global showpiece, but it was marred by English pop star Robbie Williams gave the middle finger to the TV cameras.

The tournament kicks off in earnest with Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium, with the hosts harbouring the added pressure of impressing in front of their home fans.

Thousands of revellers packed inside the sold-out stadium to witness the dazzling opening ceremony, with all the bells and whistles which have become synonymous with similar events of World Cups' past.

UK pop sensation Robbie Williams headlined the World Cup opening ceremony at the stadium in a red leopard-print suit
UK pop sensation Robbie Williams headlined the World Cup opening ceremony at the stadium in a red leopard-print suit

UK pop sensation Robbie Williams headlined the World Cup opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow

The Stoke-born singer takes to the stage as the dancers get into the spirit of the occasion during a lively performance in Moscow
The Stoke-born singer takes to the stage as the dancers get into the spirit of the occasion during a lively performance in Moscow

The Stoke-born signer takes to the stage as the dancers get into the spirit during a lively performance in Moscow

But his performance was marred when he decided to raise the middle finger to the cameras following his performance
But his performance was marred when he decided to raise the middle finger to the cameras following his performance

But his performance was marred when he decided to raise the middle finger to the cameras following his performance

Brazilian icon Ronaldo shakes hands with Hatan Bahbir before striding out onto the pitch to start the ceremony
Brazilian icon Ronaldo shakes hands with Hatan Bahbir before striding out onto the pitch to start the ceremony

Brazilian icon Ronaldo shakes hands with Hatan Bahbir before striding out onto the pitch to start the ceremony

A host of dancers line the field, wearing footballs around their neck, as they dance to Robbie Williams' songs
A host of dancers line the field, wearing footballs around their neck, as they dance to Robbie Williams' songs

A host of dancers line the field, wearing footballs around their neck, as they dance to Robbie Williams' songs


Representing the UK at the event was pop sensation Williams, who performed three songs as part of the opening ceremony for the 2018 World Cup - with his controversial single 'Party Like a Russian' not included on the set-list.

He did, however, fail to steer clear of controversy when he took the decision to raise his middle finger to the cameras as he left the pitch, which left an unsavoury taste following his upbeat performance. 

England right back Kyle Walker then took to Twitter to comment on Williams' actions, writing to Dele Alli, with an accompanying gif of the gesture: 'So nice of Robbie to say hello to @dele_official!'

The decision to book the former Take That member to sing at the opening ceremony met with surprise when it was announced by FIFA on Monday. 

The plans for the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium had been a closely-guarded secret.

Williams - described by FIFA as a 'global music icon' - performed at certain points throughout the scheduled 15-minute pre-tournament build-up. 

Artists perform before the Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup
Artists perform before the Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup

Artists perform before the Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup

An entertainer balances on top of an inflatable football and juggles a further three as fire blazes behind him and the huge crowd watches in awe
An entertainer balances on top of an inflatable football and juggles a further three as fire blazes behind him and the huge crowd watches in awe

An entertainer balances on top of an inflatable football and juggles a further three as fire blazes behind him

The 44-year-old former Take That star opened with his 1998 single 'Let Me Entertain You' at the start of the proceedings
The 44-year-old former Take That star opened with his 1998 single 'Let Me Entertain You' at the start of the proceedings

The 44-year-old former Take That star opened with his 1998 single 'Let Me Entertain You' at the start of proceedings

Williams and opera star Aida Garifullina perform the smash hit 'Angels' in front of thousands of fans at Moscow's stadium
Williams and opera star Aida Garifullina perform the smash hit 'Angels' in front of thousands of fans at Moscow's stadium

Williams and opera star Aida Garifullina perform the smash hit 'Angels' in front of thousands of fans at Moscow's stadium

The 44-year-old opened with his 1998 single 'Let Me Entertain You' at the start of proceedings after spending time on stage with former Brazil striker Ronaldo.

Russian harpist Alexander Boldachev then took centre-stage, with a large 'fire bird' entering the pitch carrying operatic performer Aida Garifullina.

She performed a duet of Williams' smash-hit 'Angels' with the Stoke-born singer, who also brought the ceremony to a close with the hit'.

Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony, with the 32 flags representing the competing nations unfurled during the the performance of 'Angels'.

Around 800 people were involved in the on-stage activities, which were held closer to kick-off than in recent finals.

Williams said opening the event to 80,000 fans and many millions all over the world was a boyhood dream, and added: 'We'd like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show.' 

Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony
Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony

Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony

Casillas raises his hand to acknowledge the crowd after placing the trophy on a plinth, denoting it is up for grabs once more
Casillas raises his hand to acknowledge the crowd after placing the trophy on a plinth, denoting it is up for grabs once more

Casillas raises his hand to acknowledge the crowd after placing the trophy on a plinth, denoting it is up for grabs once more

Goalkeeper Casillas and model Natalia Vodianova show the World Cup trophy prior to the World Cup opening ceremony
Goalkeeper Casillas and model Natalia Vodianova show the World Cup trophy prior to the World Cup opening ceremony

Goalkeeper Casillas and model Natalia Vodianova show the World Cup trophy prior to the World Cup opening ceremony

Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and will bring the trophy out ahead of the ceremony, with the 32 flags representing the competing nations being unfurled during the the performance of 'Angels'.

There will be around 800 people involved in the on-stage activities, which are being held closer to kick-off than in recent finals - with Williams not due to finish his set until 15 minutes before Russia get the tournament under way against Saudi Arabia.

Williams said opening the event to 80,000 fans and many millions all over the world was a boyhood dream, and added: 'We'd like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show.'

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