Saturday 11 November 2017, 18:14

Russia and Argentina re-open Luzhniki Stadium in style

  • The showpiece arena of the 2018 World Cup opened its doors for the first time after reconstruction

  • Sergio Aguero scored as Argentina beat Russia 1-0

  • Telstar 18, the official Russia 2018 match ball, was used for the first time

Sergio Aguero scored the only goal of the game as Russia and Argentina heralded a new chapter in the history of the Luzhniki Stadium, the flagship arena for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. The match was a good test for both teams in the build-up to the tournament next summer.

Argentina continued the trend from their World Cup qualifiers, creating plenty of chances but only managing to convert one in the final moments of the game. In the 86th minute, Aguero had a shot that Igor Akinfeev parried, but the striker was quickest to the rebound and headed into an empty net.

Since the last fixture at the Luzhniki four and a half years ago, the stadium has undergone a massive renovation. There was a full house for the re-opening, and fans were able to appreciate new modern features of the stadium.

Facts about the Luzhniki’s reconstruction

  • The last fixture held at the stadium was on 10 May 2013

  • The stands now have a steeper incline and are much closer to the pitch

  • Full capacity was increased from 78,000 to 81,000

  • The roof has been replaced with a huge media screen

  • Seven matches at the World Cup are taking place at the Luzhniki, including the Opening Match and Final

The reconstructed stadium was just one aspect of an afternoon that acted as the perfect foretaste of the FIFA World Cup. The party atmosphere was already in full flow outside of the Luzhniki, where supporters were able to meet the Russia 2018 Official Mascot Zabivaka™, or take photos with a giant replica ticket of the upcoming tournament.

Decked out in their brand-new playing kits, both teams were photographed before kick-off holding a banner with the hashtag #Welcome2018, inviting fans from all over the world to come to Russia next summer. Those watching in the stands were able to upload photos with the same hashtag onto social media and find themselves on the stadium’s mega screen.

The match also gave the players their first touch of the Russia 2018 official match ball, the Telstar 18, which was in use for the first time in Moscow today. Argentina had many more chances to get a good feel of it, dominating possession from the first whistle to the last.

While Sergio Romero was called into action properly only once, comfortably dealing with Denis Glushakov’s firm drive, his opposite number Akinfeev put in an admirable shift. Russia’s No1 made several excellent saves against Angel Di Maria, Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi. When Lionel Messi managed to round Akinfeev, defender Konstantin Rausch was there to clear off the line.

The World Cup hosts should be pleased with their performance, having managed to limit Messi and his strike partners to just one goal. The match at the amazing reconstructed stadium was a fitting reminder that the 2018 World Cup is just around the corner and preparations are now entering their final phase.

Facts about the Luzhniki Stadium

  • The arena has undergone reconstruction three times: 1976-79, 1996-97 and 2013-17

  • It was the main venue at the 1980 summer Olympics

  • Two UEFA finals have been played there: Parma 3-0 Marseille in the UEFA Cup in 1999 and Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 on penalties) in the Champions League in 2008

  • Over its 61-year history, 360 million people have attended events there