World Cup 2018 opening ceremony: Robbie Williams and giant fire bird

The World Cup got underway this afternoon in a short and sweet opening ceremony, with Robbie Williams dominating the centre of the park with a short medley of his hits.

The World Cup got underway today in a short and sweet opening ceremony, with Robbie Williams dominating the centre of the park with a short medley of his hits.

World Cup 2018 opening ceremony: Robbie Williams and giant fire bird

Zabivaka, the Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and performs perform. CREDIT: FIFA

Where previous ceremonies have featured lengthy performance art projects about the environment, the football family and children being the future, this Russian effort was snappy: long on energy, and short on too much tree-hugging.

Williams was excellent, there were representatives from the competing countries, and a giant fire bird made out of crepe paper. There was, naturally, juggling, and the obligatory giant footballs.

There were no speeches during the ceremony segment, although President Putin did give a welcome before the match itself.

"Football is truly loved here and it is called love at first sight, since our first offical match here in 1897.

"I hope fans and teams enjoy their stay in Russia, an open, hospitable and friendly country with people who have the shared values.

"Football brings us altogether in one team, we are united by this spectacular game."

World Cup 2018 opening ceremony: Robbie Williams and giant fire bird

British singer Robbie Williams.

World Cup 2018 opening ceremony: Robbie Williams and giant fire bird

Giant fire bird. CREDIT: GETTY

World Cup 2018 opening ceremony: Robbie Williams and giant fire bird

Juggling. CREDIT: REUTERS

The World Cup favourites enter the fray this weekend.

Brazil and their superstar Neymar are seeking a sixth global crown while Germany, who won their fourth World Cup in Brazil four years ago, will be determined to draw level with the Brazilians when the final is played in Moscow on July 15th.

France boast possibly the most talented squad while Lionel Messi is desperate to make amends for Argentina's defeat in the 2014 final./.

VNF

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