The World Cup kicked off in Russia on Thursday as years of preparations dogged by diplomatic scandals gave way to a month-long feast of action on the field.
Russia got the ball rolling against Saudi Arabia at the completely refurbished 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow after an opening ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin.
On the day of the curtainraiser, Russia freed the main opposition figure to Putin, Alexei Navalny, from jail after he served a 30-day sentence for organising an illegal protest.
Russia is spending more than $13 billion (11 billion euros) on hosting football´s showpiece, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.
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 15. Read more