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 By Chris Wright

World Cup starts with glitzy opening ceremony -- and a middle finger

Russia and Saudi Arabia fans are out in full force ahead of the 2018 World Cup opener.

Robbie Williams got the ball rolling and the crowd pumping at the World Cup with a traditional glitzy opening ceremony in Moscow, though he couldn't avoid a bit of controversy.

Earlier in the day, the World Cup trophy itself was delivered into the Luzhniki Stadium -- where the final will take place in 31 days -- by Iker Casillas, a man already well acquainted with the feeling of hoisting it aloft.

As for the ceremony itself, the organisers managed to pack a lot of spectacle into 10 minutes.

First of all, Williams opened up with a rousing rendition of "Let Me Entertain You," a song which was originally released a year before the 1998 World Cup.

Williams was then joined on the set by Russian opera singer Aida Garifullina, who arrived on the back of a giant fiery eagle.

As Williams and Garifullina continued to warble through the former's back catalogue, we were also treated to an array of gymnastic tumbling and people twirling about in shiny costumes.

However, Williams couldn't resist a naughty gesture as the TV cameras zoomed in for a close-up, showing the world his middle finger.

But the song went on, and before long Williams bowed out with a version of that old karaoke staple "Angels" while Ronaldo -- the Brazilian, the original, and best -- emerged from pitchside.

Indeed, the legendary Brazilian striker came on, dummied a penalty against Zabivaka the dog, the official 2018 World Cup mascot, waved to the crowd and returned from whence he came.

And that, pretty much, was that. At least until broadcasters start to receive complaints by those offended by Williams' gesture.

Hardly a classic of the genre, but then most World Cup fans couldn't really care less about what goes on ahead of the first match!

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.

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