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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Russia, But Moscow Gears Up for World Cup

APPlayers training for the World Cup’s opener between Mexico and host South Africa in Johannesburg on Friday. The match kicks off at 6 p.m. Moscow time.

The World Cup starts Friday with South Africa playing Mexico in the first match, and 56 games later it will end July 11 with the final in Johannesburg.

If you can’t make it to South Africa but crave the buzz of the crowd, many of Moscow’s bars have set up big screens for fans. In the first round, matches will be at 3:30, 6 and 10:30 p.m., prime time for post-work bar hopping.

“There’s a great atmosphere with the roar of the fans,” said Mick O’Leary, a regular at the Hot Dogs bar opposite Kursky Station, which specializes in showing major sporting events. “The focus will be entirely on the football, with no distractions.”

Most venues don’t seem to be charging entrance fees for the matches, but reserving a place in advance is a must. Buddies Cafe, an expat-orientated bar near Pushkin Square, is already full for some matches and expects a big crowd for one of the biggest games for expats in the first round, the England-United States match on Saturday.

The Liga Pap restaurant on Bolshaya Lubyanka is in the premier league of sports venues, with plush leather seats and a movie house-styled area. There’s no entrance fee, but you should book in advance. A down payment of 1,500 rubles ($47) per person is required for a seat at the final. For those unable to get in, games will be projected onto its street windows.

Other expat-friendly bars that are gearing up to the competition are English pubs Bobby Dazzler and John Bull, Irish bars Silver’s and Katie O’Shea’s and the American-themed Starlite Diner. There’s a lively discussion on about which is the best place, with a number plumping for Buddies.

The fact that Russia isn’t playing has reduced interest in the World Cup, but there will still be a fan zone at Luzhniki, similar to the one organized during the 2008 Champions League final, where all the games will be shown on big screens.

Entry will cost 100 rubles ($3), and organizers will set up a beach and football pitches and will hold concerts in the area next to the stadium.

If you need a budget variety, the ubiquitous Kruzhka chain of beer halls, where beers start at just 60 rubles, will also be showing the games.

Addresses of various spots:

Hot Dogs. 26 Zemlyainoi Val. Metro Kurskaya. Tel. 917 0150.

Buddies Cafe. 14 Tverskaya Ulitsa. Metro Pushkinskaya. Tel. 694 0229.

Liga Pub. 24 Bolshaya Lubyanka. Metro Chistiye Prudy. Tel. 624 3636.

Bobby Dazzler. 7/13 Kostyansky Pereulok. Metro Chistiye Prudy. Tel. 608 0383.

Silver's. 5/6 Tverskaya Ulitsa. Metro Okhotny Ryad. Tel. 690 4222.

Katie O'Shea's. 26 Groholsky Pereulok. Metro Chistiye Prudy. Tel. 792 5188.

Starlite Diner. Locations throughout Moscow.