While there could be reasonable debate on the subject, many around the world would say that the World Cup is truly the biggest event in sports. Statistically it’s right up there with the Olympics (with the 2014 World Cup coming second only to the 2012 Olympics in several meaningful categories), but given the world’s adoration of soccer, it can rightly be put at the top too.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia, and is already becoming the subject of much speculation. Though matches won’t begin until mid-June, fans all over the planet have already followed qualifying, watched the group draw in December, and begun to debate matches, potential group standing, and tournament favorites. Much of the early intrigue this time around resulted from the fact that several teams we expect to see in The Cup – Italy, the Netherlands, Chile, Ghana, and the United States – failed to qualify. But now that people have gotten used to that storyline, most of the attention has turned to actual tournament topics.
Venues Across Russia
A host nation like Russia is always going to be interesting because it’s so big matches will be played in vastly different cities with varying climates, populations, etc. Accordingly, as we saw in Brazil, we’ll see a combination of new and old stadiums erected across much of the country (which is always part of the fun). One thorough guide to The Cup summed it up, stating that stadiums have been constructed/renovated in 11 locations:
Moscow and St. Petersburg will be the main hubs, with each hosting a semi-final match and St. Petersburg set to host the final and the third place match.
The Eight Groups
You can view the eight groups for the opening round of the World Cup with ease now, and fairly thorough analysis has already been applied to each one. We won’t cover all eight groups here, but instead look briefly at some of the bigger stories to emerge from the draw. For one thing, Russia is believed as having received an inordinately easy draw in Group A, where it will go up against Egypt, Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia. Another talking point has been that no traditional “Group of Death” emerged, though Group H may be the closest thing (with Poland, Senegal, Colombia, and Japan) simply because it’s balanced with good teams. Group B, meanwhile, is arguably the most lopsided, with Spain and Portugal very likely to advance over Morocco and Iran.
For the most part, the tournament favorites in Russia are the usual suspects. That is to say, Germany, Brazil, and Spain are all going to be in the top-five as far as betting odds go (with Germany likely to remain the overall favorite). Argentina is also going to be in the mix despite a very difficult battle through qualifying (and presuming Lionel Messi, who has “retired” from international play multiple times, plays). Perhaps the most interesting team among the favorites is France, which appears to be back to a world-class level thanks largely to an infusion of young talent. The Cup is fairly open, but these are the five most likely winners, with Belgium perhaps just on the outside looking in.
You can find tickets to all of the games HERE.
Written by contributing Author: Joshua Wells