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Messi Russian Dolls, clean streets and a bubbling buzz… inside the 2018 World Cup so far

It's hard not to feel there's a certain sense of wariness ahead of the tournament, but the pieces are undeniably in place to make the Russian World Cup truly memorable

So here we go then.

With a day before the start of the greatest show on Earth™, Russia is just about ready for it as far as I can see 48 hours after touching down in Moscow.

And by just about ready, I mean they are literally putting on the finishing touches in preparation for the 2018 World Cup.

Round the corner from the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, workers are laying new turf at the side of the road, flowerbeds are being freshly populated, and streets are being cleaned in anticipation of hundreds of thousands of football fans from all over the world as they descend around Russia.


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Me and the big lad

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Me and the big lad

 

The magnificent Luzhniki Stadium

EPA
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The magnificent Luzhniki Stadium

It’s been raining on and off for the past two days, and whilst it’s not been a bombastic, warm welcome, fans have had a functional, simple start to their tournament.

Bags are being checked in X-ray machines at the entrances of every Metro station, the underground system itself is nigh-on impossible to navigate to most with little assistance available, and tight bureaucracy means most have been drowning in admin hell, trying to sort out Fan IDs, ticket collections and other assorted paperwork.

Fitting that at the home of Tetris, the principles still live strong on the Metro

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Fitting that at the home of Tetris, the principles still live strong on the Metro

Thank goodness, then, that there are the fans. There always are, giving the whole thing the shot in the arm it needs.

Whilst some from England have, reasonably, shunned Russia, the rest of the world have come and they’re not afraid to show it.

There’s Egyptians holding aloft a fake World Cup trophy shouting the name of their new king, Mo Salah.

There’s Uruguayans beckoning anyone and everyone to take pictures with their flag in tow.

Argentinians are going the obvious route of having Messi emblazoned on their backs, and there’s Panamanians, who are just happy to be here in the first place.

Uruguayan World Cup fever level: 100%

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Uruguayan World Cup fever level: 100%

It has been easy to forget in recent months that a football tournament will take place at some stage, but now we’ve got here, you get the sense World Cup fever is about to hit.

Inside an Irish pub off a central Moscow street, Germany’s humiliation of Brazil from four years ago is being broadcast again.

A group of Australians sit nearby, discussing their team’s potential in the tournament.

Four years ago Harry Kane had just made his first Premier League start for Spurs. Now hes front and centre for Nike in Moscow.

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Four years ago Harry Kane had just made his first Premier League start for Spurs. Now hes front and centre for Nike in Moscow.

Over the road, the Nike store has a revolving display of England, Brazil and France kits, and I feel a pang of excitement to see Harry Kane’s shirt taking centre stage.

Before you ask, we did ask about Nigeria’s kit. And yes, it has sold out in Russia as well.

A special stand inside the shop showing off the rest of the insanely popular collection will have to do.

No sign of the Nigerian home kit, naturally. But the away kit could be yours for £70.

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No sign of the Nigerian home kit, naturally. But the away kit could be yours for £70.

Aside from these pockets of activity, it looks like business as usual for most Russians – for now.

Some of the main shopping streets feel more like Reading than Russia, some entrepreneurial locals have slotted in some Ronaldo and Messi Russian Dolls in amongst their displays to capitalise on the upcoming festival of football, but largely it’s been left to the visiting fans to start and sustain the buzz.

Not gonna lie, this could be Maidenhead, not Moscow

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Not gonna lie, this could be Maidenhead, not Moscow

Are they Ronaldo and Messi Russian dolls? Naturally. Are we going to buy one? You bet your bottom Rouble we are

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Are they Ronaldo and Messi Russian dolls? Naturally. Are we going to buy one? You bet your bottom Rouble we are

It’s hard not to feel there’s a certain sense of wariness ahead of the tournament.

The first game, perhaps the first week, will be massive in setting the tone both on and off the field.

Should it all go well, it will afford the chance for fans to fully relax, strap in for the ride of their lives, and we can all sit back and enjoy what we’re all here to do – witnessing the greatest show on Earth™.


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