Soccer fans use a giant Croatian national flag as a shelter during the rain at Manezh Square near Red Square ahead of the semifinal soccer match between Croatia and England during the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

WORLD CUP KICKOFF: A look at what's ahead at the World Cup

July 12, 2018 - 2:46 pm
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MOSCOW (AP) — Here's a look at what's coming up at the World Cup , which is down to its last two matches: the third-place game Saturday in St. Petersburg between Belgium and England, and the final the following day in Moscow between France and Croatia.

PUMP UP THE VOLUME

Will Smith, Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi are headlining the closing ceremony before the final. They'll be singing the tournament's official song , "Live It Up," which has oddly been absent from soundtracks at stadiums around Russia. The three will make their first appearance together in Russia at a Friday news conference. FIFA and its broadcasting partners may be hoping for a less eventful show than the opening ceremony, when British singer Robbie Williams stuck out his middle finger at the camera during his act at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

CHECKERED FUTURE

A bonus for the Croats as they prepare for their nation's first World Cup final : They finally get to wear their unmistakable checkered jerseys again. Croatia's fans have traveled to all of their matches sporting the famed red-and-white shirts but the players haven't been able to wear them since the opening match against Nigeria nearly a month ago. That's because they would have clashed, one way or another, with the uniforms of the five opponents Croatia has played since. With Les Bleus in their own favored shirts, Croatia will again be free to put on the colors shown in the crest on its flag. For a sense of how big a deal that is, look at how quickly coach Zlatko Dalic switched out of his dress shirt and into a jersey after Wednesday's extra-time win over England, or how Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic proudly wore a checked scarf to a NATO summit this week in Belgium.

PRESIDENT AT THE PODIUM

Speaking of presidents, FIFA President Gianni Infantino is set to meet the media for his first World Cup news conference, two days ahead of the final. Besides praising Russia for a successful tournament, Infantino can expect questions about the 2022 World Cup in Qatar , the $25 billion Club World Cup and the role for the top female FIFA official, Fatma Sasoura, who has rarely been heard from during the tournament.

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