World Cup: countdown to opening ceremony and the first game – live!

Julen Lopetegui and Real Madrid have scheduled a press conference for early this evening (7pm CET, to be precise). In the circumstances, you’d have thought it might be better just to keep quiet for a few days. It will happen just an hour after his stand-in Fernando Hierro undertakes Spain’s pre-match press conference in Russia.

And with that, it’s time to hand over the reins to Simon in London, who will take you through to kick-off time in Moscow. Then you’ll have the pleasure of Barry Glendenning’s company for the game itself. From me though, it’s goodbye and thanks for your company.

Move on, nothing to see here. Please disperse. Nothing to see here.

A ball hasn’t even been kicked yet but already the 2018 Fifa World Cup is going off like a fireworks factory blown up by a military grade ballistic missile. Four years of waiting and then on the day before Robbie Williams and the host nation kick off the tournament, this happens.

Shortly after that Spanish bombshell, and despite some unhelpful interventions from Donald Trump, this happened, much to the delight of the United peoples of North America. Then this, perhaps unsurprisingly. A finally, this, sadly. Oh and there was this too.

Ah, the World Cup, it’s nothing if not entertaining away from the pitch. But this is just the beginning. There are four weeks of this to look forward to now. Plus there’ll be a bit of football, I imagine.

Yes, actual football. There will definitely be some later today, when hosts Russia open their campaign against Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Once the opening ceremony, featuring the aforementioned popster (who has been accused of selling his soul in agreeing to perform), is done and dusted, kick off is 6pm local, 4pm BST, 1am (Friday) AEST or 11am EDT.

Some housekeeping before we dive head first into it all: this daily blog will run until an hour before the first game of the day kicks off. Then, it’s over to the new, match-specific liveblog(s) to see the day through. And that’s how we’ll roll pretty much every day for the next four weeks. It’s a liveblogger’s dream/nightmare scenario, depending on how how deep into the tournament we are, one assumes.

Comments below the line are on, but if you wanted to get in touch on email you can do on mike.hytner@theguardian.com, or even Twitter @mike_hytner, if that’s your bag, until my colleague in London, Simon Burnton, takes over in about three hours’ time.

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