With just days to go until the big kick-off, excitement over just about every element of the 2018 World Cup is understandably reaching fever pitch.
Who’ll win it? What players will make a name for themselves on the grandest stage of them all?
Can England really go all the way? And how long will we be able to last until we have to mute Sam Matterface’s commentary?
There is one exception to this, however: the small matter of the opening game itself.
On the face of it, we’d agree with you that Russia vs Saudi Arabia is hardly one to get the pulses racing as a start to the biggest tournament in sport.
But when you scratch below the surface, it actually transpires that this is going to be the greatest opening World Cup game ever.
1: It’s the perfect excuse to leave work early
The match’s 4pm kick-off is an absolute beauty for the desk-dwellers of the nation. Regardless of what situation you’re in, and there are three avenues you can exploit.
Firstly, you can book a half day and get yourself down the pub in time for the Opening Ceremony (more on that gold below), before the game perfectly segways into a Thursday evening in the boozer. Or if your boss has a heart/remotely likes football, he may well let you knock off early in order to catch the game.
If either of those options are out of the question, fear not – you can get your own back on those party poopers.
Simply stream the game at your desk and ensure you do absolutely no work until the exact minute you can clock out. Just remember to have a spreadsheet open you can quickly switch to whenever the boss walks past and print random documents just so you look busy for good measure.
2: It has all the makings of a crazy Opening Ceremony
Little has been known about what the hosts in store for us during the 30-minute pre-match extravaganza – until now.
Approximately 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists will pay tribute to all things Russia during it, which is something you’d probably expect. But incredibly, it’s now been announced the whole show is to be headlined by Robbie Williams of all people.
ROBBIE BLOODY WILLIAMS. Brilliantly, this comes just two years after Russian media said he should be banned from the country after being less than complimentary about the country during his song Party Like A Russian. It’s a bit different from J-Lo and Pitbull at Brazil 2014, we’ll give you that.
It does get better, though. We’ll also be able to relive a small slice of Italia 90, as opera singer Placido Domingo – one of the Three Tenors alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras in 1990 – will be performing before a fireworks display heralds the start of the real action on the pitch.
3: Vladimir Putin will be lording it up over everyone
Given all the political tension and general hoo-ha with Russia, Putin’s inevitable attendance at the Opening Ceremony should be a good spectacle in itself.
Expect smug grins and greetings of dignitaries aplenty as, in his mind at least, he subtly goads the West.
Sadly, there’ll be no British representatives to look typically uncomfortable as he stares them out during a cold-handed iron grip handshake.
4: We’ll get to see superhumans in the flesh
Given the Russians are hosting this year, we expect they’ve put a lot of extra effort in to their pre-tournament training camp. And by “effort”, we of course mean “substances”.
We’ll have to wait and see whether they’ve used steroids or something much more exciting – like nuclear spider venom – but we can’t wait to see their powers on the pitch.
For legal reasons, we should say here we are completely and utterly joking. Please don’t hurt us, Vlad…
5: You’ll have the opportunity to sound like a World Cup genius
Short of laughing about memories of Andrey Arshavin or saying Aleksandr Golovin looks like a good player based on those three minutes of Europa League highlights you watched last season, you probably don’t know much about these two sides.
Which gives you the perfect opportunity to sound like a cultured football genius when you tell them these facts about two of the Saudi Arabia team:
Nawaf Al Abed: Highly praised by the region’s footballing press, Al Abed scored what was believed to be the fastest goal in history when he lobbed the keeper after just 2.4 seconds. However, the match was voided after it was discovered an ineligible player was involved. Whoops.
Mohammad Al-Sahlawi: This goal machine, who has netted 28 times in 40 appearances for his country, trained for three weeks at Manchester United earlier this year as part of a commercial agreement. Mourinho must’ve been tempted to ditch Lukaku for him at one point last season, surely?
6: An upset could be on the cards
Saudi Arabia were set to enter the 2018 World Cup as the lowest ranked side in the tournament up until last week when they leapfrogged – yep, you guessed it – Russia.
So the mighty hosts and worst team of the tournament will be straining every sinew to upset the odds in their own national stadium on opening night again the second worst team in the tournament.
What a time to be alive.
7: It’s the start of the World Cup for goodness sake!
Yes, we’re well aware we could say this about literally every single other opening World Cup game in history.
But it’s still a completely valid point: the World Cup is finally here, so rejoice!