Football fans have begun to descend on Moscow as the city prepares for the opening of the sport’s greatest showpiece.
The centre of the Russian capital was awash with the colours of nations taking part, including Peru, Iran, Egypt and Argentina, three days before the World Cup begins with the host nation playing Saudi Arabia.
Supporters proudly wore their team shirts with national flags draped over their shoulders as they strolled near Red Square.
There were also hints of the huge security operation about to get under way, with a visible police presence at major metro stations and military-style officers near Luzhniki Stadium, which will host the opening ceremony and first match.
Robbie Williams has been announced as one of the performers for the showcase, which dignitaries from the teams usually attend.
But following the diplomatic row between the UK and Russia over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Salisbury in March, the UK Government has said no officials or members of the royal family will attend.
Teams of people worked in the shadow of the stadium, which will also host the final on July 15, constructing fan shops, interactive zones and sponsor areas.
One Australia fan, Samir Alhafith, 44, said Moscow was beginning to be gripped by football fever.
He said: “It’s amazing. I was in Moscow 28 years ago and it’s nothing like I remember it.
“The first three days I was here, not that much atmosphere, but with two or three days to go it’s starting to get a bit more buzzing.
“Speaking to guys over here I don’t think anyone cares about the politics.”
A Russian fan called Sergey said he had tickets for five matches across the country and was looking forward to seeing new parts of his homeland.
He said the row between Russia and the UK was a matter for the governments.
England’s first group game is against Tunisia in Volgograd, more than 560 miles south of Moscow, on Monday June 18.