After weeks, months and years of waiting, the World Cup will finally get underway on Thursday afternoon when Russia take on Saudi Arabia in Moscow.
On paper, it’s not the most appetising contest. But there’s still plenty to enjoy about the opener.
We’ve taken a look at what you can expect from the curtain-raiser at the 21st World Cup tournament…
Hosts open with a bang?
Nations who host the World Cup often enjoy a lift they wouldn’t otherwise get were the tournament held elsewhere.
Nowhere is that quirk more evident than in the opening match.
No host nation has ever lost their opening fixture at a World Cup. From Uruguay in 1930 to Brazil in 2014, every single home team has returned with at least a point from their first match.
With stars like Igor Akinfeev, Alan Dzagoev and Fyodor Smolov to call upon, the hosts look well-placed to extend that historic sequence.
Tight match on the cards?
It won’t have escaped most peoples’ notice that Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two worst-ranked sides at the tournament.
On one level that could make for an open game. But we’re more inclined to believe it’ll be a tight and scrappy contest.
These sides are winless in their last 15 group stage matches combined.
Neither team will want to give anything away as they battle for three points that could prove crucial in what will likely prove to be a race for second place in Group A.
Who’ll be the story?
World Cups are made off memorable moments. And those moments often occur in the opening match.
Marcelo was nearly the big story four years ago when his own-goal gave Croatia a 1-0 lead over Brazil. Neymar then grabbed the headlines with a brace to rescue the Samba Boys in Sao Paulo.
In South Africa, it was Siphiwe Tshabalala who stole the show as he scored Bafana Bafana’s opener on home soil.
Miroslav Klose netted a brace in 2006, while Papa Bouba Diop and Senegal stunned reigning champions France in the curtain raiser back in 2002.
There’s always a story from the first match of the tournament. Who will it be this time around?
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication