Opening ceremony, Russia vs Saudi Arabia, news, updates, FIFA

ONE of the biggest sporting spectacles is set to get underway with Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Robbie Williams is set to headline the opening ceremony extravaganza with the festivities taking place in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. The same stadium which will host the final.

Once the entertainment wraps up the real action kicks off with the host nation taking on Saudi Arabia in the first game.

Former Socceroo returns Cash’s serve

Pat Cash drew the ire from plenty of Australian’s only days out from the Socceroos’ opening clash in the 2018 World Cup.

Cash incited a heated cross-code debate after urging his followers on Twitter to ditch the World Cup in favour of “real man’s sport” Aussie rules.

Cash’s bizarre slap at the Socceroos was heavily ridiculed by commentators and fans alike for taking an “offensive” view on Australia’s place in the world game.

His tweet was shredded by The Australian’s chief football writer Ray Gatt before radio personality Dave Hughes chimmed in with his take.

While their were plenty of stinging barbs thrown in the direction of Cash, one former Socceroo wasn’t joining in.

Craig Foster, now chief football analyst for the SBS, took a more reasonable stance when dissecting the commotion.

Rather than take a pot-shot at Cash, Foster detailed the glaring difference Australia has over other nations playing the global game and how the nation can overcome it’s “great sporting challenge”.

The commotion of Cash’s tweet caused quite the distraction, but as Foster said the World Cup is here and all that matters now is the results on the pitch.

Bert believes in young gun Arzani

He may be the youngest player in Russia but Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk has high expectations of Daniel Arzani, declaring he can be “the difference”.

The 19-year-old is in line to make his World Cup debut on Saturday when Australia tackles France in its tournament opener.

Unleashing the Melbourne City teenager on football’s biggest stage was unthinkable just months ago, when Arzani hadn’t even started an A-League game.

After a swashbuckling end to the domestic season, and an international debut and goal earlier this month, Arzani now finds himself on the brink of selection.

“You saw in the last 20 minutes Arzani played in Hungary. That’s the reason I took him in this squad,” van Marwijk said.

“He can make the difference.”

Daniel Arzani made quite the impression in his last outing with the Socceroos.Source:Getty Images

Arzani made his Socceroos debut in Austria against the Czech Republic, coming on as the clock ticked down.

Arzani scored with his first interaction in Hungary, before setting up an injury-time winner by playing a fantastic though-ball to Jackson Irvine.

The cameo was enough to establish the rookie as the most exciting prospect in Australian football — if he wasn’t already.

Van Marwijk said the rapid rise to stardom hadn’t got to Arzani, and his teammates would make sure it didn’t.

“No no no. This is a good group,” he said.

“They call him kid. That says enough. He knows exactly his place.”

In keeping with regular practice, van Marwijk wouldn’t disclose whether Arzani would be picked, either to start or climb from the bench at the Kazan Arena.

The former Netherlands coach said he’d even seen development over the past three weeks of pre-tournament training.

“He had some little difficulties at the beginning in our training camp and then he was growing,” he said.

“At that moment he was a little bit down. Now he’s feeling well.

“Everybody saw he can make the difference, that’s very important.

“He is a player who can help us maybe some times.”


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