Spanish and Portuguese fans have been soaking up the sun in Sochi ahead of their teams’ opening World Cup Group B clash in the southern Russian city on Friday night.
The Russian resort town on the Black Sea coast appears to be the perfect venue to host two nations famous for beaches of their own.
Ahead of kick-off at Fisht Stadium, sets of rival fans have been taking the time to stroll along the coastline and enjoy the balmy climate.
One group of Spaniards was particularly lively, rousing locals from their sunbathing to take photos with a giant flag the supporters were carrying.
Palm trees are not something many football fans would have expected to see in Russia, but they can be found along the streets near Fisht, one of 12 World Cup host venues.
For a nation mostly associated with snow, the weather and pleasant surroundings in the Russian resort have taken some Spanish fans by surprise.
Javier arrived in Sochi on Thursday. “We were surprised, because Sochi is such a nice city, we were impressed by the buildings, the hotels. We’ve been enjoying the portside area, the restaurants,” he told RT.
For Javier, from Valencia, the warm weather also meant he felt at home, with the temperature touching 30C in Sochi around midday on Friday. “It’s purely like Spain. In fact, I think it’s warmer than Spain right now,” he added.
Russians flock to the Sochi beaches every summer, although this year they have a colorful array of foreign football fans to join them.
The group of Spanish fans, who were loudly chanting “Y Viva Espana!” along the promenade near the stadium, certainly drew the locals curiosity, with many rushing from their sunbeds to take photos.
Spain are among the favourites to lift the trophy in Moscow on July 15, although their preparations suffered a blow when former manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked just days before the game against Portugal.
Lopetegui, who was unbeaten in 20 games with Spain, was announced as new Real Madrid manager on Tuesday. The Spanish FA reportedly had not been aware of the discussions and promptly sacked Lopetegui, replacing him with director of football Fernando Hierro.
Despite the issues, Javier still backed his team to beat a Portugal team led by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. “Spain will win for sure, despite the problems with the coach. We will play the normal way, the normal style, we’ll defeat Portugal,” he said.
Today’s Portugal-Spain match is the first of four group-stage games in Sochi, which will also host a last 16 game and a quarter-final.
Fisht Stadium was originally built to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Brazil have also made their World Cup base here.
With the sun shining and the biggest football show on Earth in town, life seems pretty good in Sochi right now.
By Liam Tyler, for RT Sport