Make no mistake about it: the FIFA World Cup is the single most popular sporting event in the world, surpassing even the Olympics. Though the competition hasn’t officially started yet, the 2018 World Cup has already made history with a number of first-time events.
This is the first time that Russia will be hosting the World Cup. Games will take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Yekaterinburg, Sochi, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don. Hosting doesn’t come cheap, though: Reports indicate Russia’s budget has increased to $11.8 Billion.
The World Cup will take place from June 14 to July 15 and is expected to attract over 3 billion viewers on television and 1 million tourists to Russia. The draw to determine groups will be held on December 1 in the State Kremlin Palace of Moscow. Unlike in previous years, FIFA has announced that it will be changing the way it seeds groups. For the Russian World Cup, FIFA will determine groups based on this month’s FIFA rankings. In previous World Cups, FIFA only seeded the top seven teams and the host team, however this year it will be seeding all 32 teams. Demand will be highest at the during the draw, so it’s a good idea to move quickly to purchase tickets.
With major players like Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos, returning champions Germany are considered favorites for Russia 2018. France is another favorite, with stars like Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba. Spain boasts a powerhouses team, with players like Diego Costa, Sergio Ramos and Jorge Resurrección Merodio (aka Koke). Argentina is positioned to be another favorite, as it features one of the most famous players in the world, Lionel Messi. Be sure to keep your eyes open for teams like Belgium, England and Portugal, who, while not clear favorites, may surprise with strong performances.
And let’s not sleep on pre-tournament darlings, Iceland, who have qualified for the first time for the World Cup. The island, with a population of less than 350,000, is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the FIFA event. Last year, the Icelandic soccer team qualified for the first time for the UEFA Euro tournament advancing all the way to the quarterfinals before losing to France. Though the country is small, it boasts a high ratio of soccer coaches to people. Whereas in England, there are 10,000 people for every soccer coach, Island’s ration is one coach per 500 people.
As of now, 23 teams have qualified for the World Cup. They are: Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Germany, England, Spain, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Panama, Poland, Egypt, Iceland, Serbia, Portugal, France, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia with the rest of the 32 team field to be filled out before the eagerly anticipated December 1st draw.
This post was written by Jacqueline Brechner