Robbie Williams and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina will entertain the crowd at the opening ceremony of the World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
They will be joined by Brazil’s two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo at Thursday’s show, which will be held just 30 minutes before the kick-off to the first match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
“I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance,” Williams said.
“I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the Fifa World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream.”
The underlying theme of celebrating not only football but also the host country will be represented by a performance from Garifullina.
“I never imagined I would be part of this huge celebration, the World Cup, happening in my own country,” the soloist from the Vienna State Opera said.
“The image that I will be presenting to the whole world will be very symbolic and associated with a dream coming to life.
“And, on 15 July, we will find out for whom this precious dream will come true, back on the same stage, after a month-long festival of football in Russia.”
Ronaldo was part of the triumphant Brazil squad at the 1994 World Cup, albeit he did not feature, and then claimed the Golden Boot with eight goals as he led his nation to the trophy eight years later.
The 41-year-old looks back fondly on past World Cup curtain-raisers and is relishing being involved at Russia 2018.
“The opening match is always a very symbolic one – it is that instant when you realise that the big moment you, as a player or fan, have been waiting for for four years has finally arrived,” he said.
“Of course it is also an emotional one for the hosts. After so much hard work, suddenly the whole world is gathered in your backyard to celebrate their love for football.
“I felt that in Brazil four years ago and I am now happy to share this excitement with the Russians as well.”