Thursday 14/06/18

FIFA World Cup 2018: Opening Ceremony (ITV, 2.30pm)

For non football fans, the fortnight or so since the domestic and European campaigns ended probably seem an inadequate break from the beautiful game.

However, for most of us, the wait is now finally over for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and we can now bask in a 31-day long feast of football.

The 21st staging of the tournament gets under way today, but before the action kicks off on the pitch, there is the customary opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull were headline acts at the 2014 curtain-raiser in Brazil, and at the time of writing there was still no official confirmation of who will top the bill this time.

However, we do know that opera singer Placido Domingo - who famously soundtracked Italia 90 as one of the Three Tenors alongside Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras - will be on stage, alongside Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez.

As will pianist Denis Matsuev, and Russian opera stars Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eivazov, Ildar Abdrazakov, Aida Garifullina and Albina Shagimuratova.

The official World Cup song Live It Up, which features Will Smith, Nicky Jam and Kosovar Albanian singer Era Istrefi, will also be performed.

Alongside the music, there will be around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists performing in an extravaganza that will pay homage to all things Russian, and the show will close with a spectacular firework display.

In addition, there will be a concert held in the city's Red Square concurrently with the opening ceremony.

Then, after all that, it's time to get down to business, as the world's most prestigious football tournament begins.

As is usually the case, the host nation get the ball rolling, with Russia taking on Group A rivals Saudi Arabia.

Russia go into the draw as the lowest-ranked of the tournament's 32 teams, having failed to advance past the group stage since 2008.

However, hosts tend to do well at these types of events, so there is still a glimmer of hope that Stanislav Cherchesov's charges can at least reach the knockout stages.

The nation has also had to deal with off-field problems too, including reports of disputes between players and the coach, as well as hooligan rampages at Euro 2016 which tarnished the country's image.

Their key player is likely to be captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, but even he has been known to make costly mistakes in big games.

Preparations have also been far from ideal for Saudi Arabia, who have sacked two coaches since qualifying for their fifth World Cup.

Edgardo Bauz, who had been appointed in September to replace Bert van Marwijk, was dismissed after only five friendlies in charge.

Juan Antonio Pizzi was named as his successor and faces the daunting task of improving on Saudi Arabia's best-ever performance at World Cup - the second-round exit to Sweden at the 1994 tournament in the US.

Their star man will be Al-Nassr's Mohammad Al-Sahlawi - the 30-year-old striker who scored 16 goals in qualifying.

This afternoon's match should be an interesting way to start the tournament, and it's the first game of 13 to whet England fans' appetites before Gareth Southgate's men get their campaign underway on Monday.

Perhaps by then, everyone's appetite for football will have returned and the excitement will be at fever pitch - at least in one part of the home nations.

Britain's Best Home Cook (BBC1, 8pm)

Claudia Winkleman presents the final, in which just three more challenges stand between the remaining contestants and the title. First up is a fiddly summer favourite, followed by the familiar task of creating a dish using a key ingredient - although as it's the final the judges have a few tricks up their sleeve. Finally they have to serve up their best main course and pudding - and with dishes including beef wellington, Thai curry, carrot cake and a risky take on one of Mary's cakes, there is plenty for the judges to get their teeth into. But who will they choose as their winner? Last in the series.

The Trouble with Women with Anne Robinson (BBC1, 9pm)

"I've got 50 years of experience of what it is to be a woman in the workplace and in the home, and I will be fascinated to find out how much equality British women feel they've achieved and what they still want to change." A century on since suffrage, Anne Robinson is keen to meet British women from across the social spectrum and explore the most current and challenging questions around equality. On an immersive journey from the boardroom to bedroom, she employs her journalistic curiosity and fearless candour to dig into personal stories and tackle provocative issues from sexual harassment and stay-at-home dads, to growing old gracefully and the gender pay gap. Throughout, Anne shares her first-hand experience and her own passionate perspective on the role of women in modern society and asks who is responsible for it.

Inside HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs (C5, 9pm)

The category-B men's prison in west London began construction in 1874, and was taken over by the MI5 during the Second World War. In the years since, it has been home to serial killers Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe, as well as rock stars Pete Docherty and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. It has even provided a stage to a few famous actors, with both Ronny Barker and Michael Caine walking out of its doors. However, this programme digs deeper than just 'Wormwood Celebrities' to uncover some of the true horror that lurks behind its doors. These tales include the flogging of aristocrats that split the nation, the Soviet spy who climbed over the wall, and prison officers who terrorised Britain's hardest criminal, Charles Bronson.