World Cup set to kick off month-long showcase of top footballing nations and stars

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Luzhniki Stadium in Russia.

The World Cup kicks off in Russia on Thursday as years of preparations give way to a month-long feast of action on the field.

Russia get 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.

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.

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

On the field, Russia and the Saudis do not represent the most glamorous opener – they are the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament.

“We have to take all the criticism and turn it into something positive,” Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said.

The preparations of 2010 winners Spain are in tatters after coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked just two days before their opening game on Friday against Portugal. He had angered his federation by taking the job of Real Madrid manager.

While Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, has recovered from a broken bone in his foot in time, the strength of prolific Egypt striker Mohamed Salah‘s injured shoulder is less certain.

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Every World Cup group stage Moment of the Day in association with Hublot

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Hat-trick hero: Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Portugal

From the first kick to the final whistle we’ll be bringing you the Hublot World Cup Moment of the Day from Russia, so you won’t miss a kick from the greatest tournament on Earth.

Thursday 14th June – Day one

The time has arrived! 🙌 @hublotmea #HublotMEA x #HublotLovesFootball

A post shared by Sport360 (@sport360) on

Friday 15th June – Day two

Saturday 16th June – Day three

Sunday 17th June – Day four

Monday 18th June – Day five


Tuesday 19th June – Day six

Wednesday 20th June – Day seven

Thursday 21st June – Day eight

Friday 22nd June – Day nine

Saturday 23rd June – Day ten

Sunday 24th June – Day eleven


Monday 25th June – Day twelve

Tuesday 26th June – Day thirteen


Wednesday 27th June – Day fourteen

Thursday 28th June – Day fifteen

Friday 29th June – Day sixteen

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Marcus Rashford still absent as England tune up for World Cup opener against Tunisia

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Marcus Rashford was again conspicuous by his absence as England trained ahead of their World Cup opener against Tunisia.

Gareth Southgate’s squad continued preparations for Monday’s Group G clash in Volgograd at the Spartak Zelenogorsk Stadium, where the session was a man light for the second successive day.

Rashford missed training on Wednesday with a knee issue that again kept him out on Thursday, when he stayed at the team’s forRestMix Club hotel in Repino to do separate work.

Southgate called it a “slight knock” upon landing in Russia and Rashford attempted to allay concerns about his fitness on Twitter.

“Thanks for the messages I’ve been getting,” he posted on Wednesday evening. “Picked up a slight niggle but nothing to worry about #ThreeLions”

While the knee issue does not seem too serious, it may well extinguish Rashford’s hopes of being in the line-up to face Tunisia on Monday.

The 20-year-old had bolstered his chances of starting the Group G opener with a man-of-the-match display in last week’s 2-0 friendly send-off win against Costa Rica.

Rashford’s knee issue meant he was the only squad member absent from training on Thursday morning, when England players and staff observed a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Southgate’s team showed their respect for those who lost their lives in last summer’s tragedy in London before training, where a number of staff wore Grenfell green heart badges.

Media had access to the first 15 minutes of training and saw the players warm up for the main part of the session.

England were set to host their first press conference since arriving in Russia at the Repino Cronwell Park hotel, with Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier set to face the media on Thursday afternoon.

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