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14th Jun 2018

World Cup Moments: Robbie Williams wins the World Cup for England

Who expected the performance of the night to come from England's greatest showman?

Wil Jones

Some World Cup moments remain vivid in your memory, especially if they happen about 4 hours ago

We had Diana Ross and the exploding goal, and we had the giant robots of France 98, but nothing prepared for Robbie Williams in Moscow.

Some may have questioned it. Some may have wondered what year it was. Aren’t opening ceremonies meant to be 45 minutes long and full of incomprehensible symbolism and traditional dancing? Why is a British singer who hasn’t been relevant since “Rudebox” doing the Russian ceremony? Was Toni Kroos responsible for booking the opening act?

There was no need to worry. All those questions faded from memory as Robbie swaggered out onto the pitch Luzhniki Stadium.

Somehow looking like both modern day Morrissey and a character from Tekken, 44-year-old Williams still had his cocky charm, though his choice of a red velour leopard print tux, along with his neck tattoo and grey hair, gave him the look of an ageing 1990s ska band singer, stuck playing the afternoon Reading and Leeds Festivals for the rest of eternity.

But when he opened his mouth, everything came together. Flanked by the OG Ronaldo, Robbie sauntered out and started the opening growl to “Let Me Entertain You”. Dancers darted around the pitch. Some bounced on giant football space hoppers.

The camera swooped through the stadium. Robbie screamed. Girls in matching red tracksuits gyrated behind him. It was like a late 1990s FIFA intro come to life.

“Let Me Entertain You” always sounds amazing on full volume. You started to feel the chills. It’s the World Cup, lads! IT’S THE WORLD FUCKING CUP.

Then Robbie disappeared, while a guy with a space aged harp and a shirt covered in the fire emojis began to play. An unidentified singer, probably the Russian Dua Lipa (Duma Lipa?) or something, sang as she was carried around in a giant papier mache phoenix.

But then, what’s this? Surely not. Elvis had left the building. It can’t be. It can. It is. Robbie came back. He went up to the podium in the centre circle, and he sung “Feel”. Then the familiar strains of “Angels” started to play. This is it. It’s happening. And then Russian Dua Lipa (Duma Lipa) came up to join him. Robbie gave an eyebrow waggle to the camera.

Wait, what is this? “Angels” isn’t a duet!?! But they made it into a duet. And it worked. It was beautiful. It was the greatest radical reinvention of a beloved cultural artefact since The Last Jedi.

It was all going off. A Russian model in a red ballgown carried the matchball out. Ronaldo high-fived a wolf, “Angels”, blasting out of the PA. We weren’t in Russia anymore. We were in a club at 3am, arms around our mates, screaming “And throooooough it AAALLLLLLL…. She offers me PROTECTION!”. A ball hadn’t even been kicked yet, and England had already won this World Cup.

And that was it. Ten minutes. That’s all we needed. In the words of Natasha Beddingfield: this World Cup is still unwritten. Who knows what will happen. We could be dancing in the street, or we could have another 2010 in our hands. But we’ll always have Robbie singing “Angels”.