The FIFA World Cup takes place every four years and is a wildly anticipated world sporting event. The 2018 FIFA World Cup has come together after qualifying matches paved the way for 32 teams to head to Russia this June. Let’s take a closer look at how this year’s World Cup is shaping up.
From All Corners of the Globe
In 2015, all 209 FIFA Member Associations registered for the preliminary competition, the first time in World Cup history (which dates back to the first World Cup in 1930). As the host, Russia was automatically qualified, but a series of matches were held to fill out the rest of the 31 teams required for World Cup play.
From North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, three teams qualified for 2018: Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama (first World Cup appearance). From Africa, five teams qualified for 2018 World Cup play: Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. From Asia, four teams qualified: Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. South America is also sending five teams: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. Also, Australia qualified from Oceania.
Europe is sending the most teams with 14. Teams include: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany (defending 2014 World Cup champions), Iceland (first World Cup appearance), Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Setting up the World Cup
In December 2017, the World Cup draw took place in Moscow. This involved each qualifying team getting sorted into eight groups. First, the teams are sorted into pots, with pot 1 for the highest-ranked teams and pot 4 meant for the lowest-ranked teams. As the host nation, Russia was placed into pot 1, along with defending champion Germany and six other teams.
From the pots, the teams are further sorted into eight groups of four, with each group labeled with a letter from A to H. Teams from the same confederation cannot be sorted into the same group except for UEFA (the European confederation, of which two can be drawn into the same group).
The first stage of play is group play, where a team plays matches against the other three teams within their group (three total matches). The top two teams of each group will then advance to the knockout stage, which follows a format many of us are familiar to – the top team from group A, for example, will face the second team from group B, and so on. The knockout stage proceeds from a round of 16 to quarterfinals, semi-finals, and World Cup, where a winner will ultimately be crowned.
All Around Russia
Russia will hold all World Cup matches in 11 cities at 12 stadiums. For ease of travel (including distance, time, and costs), all cities were chosen in the European part of Russia, excluding Yekaterinburg, which lies east of the Ural Mountains in the Asian part of Russia.
Only two stadiums already stood when Russia was elected in 2010 as host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow is one of these two. It was originally built in 1956, and after redevelopment, is now the largest World Cup venue in Russia with a capacity of around 81,000. It will host the opening match, final, and a few others in the middle. Ekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg is the other. Built in the ’50s, it underwent redevelopment to conform to FIFA standards.
The rest of the venues are quite a bit newer. Saint Petersburg Stadium, for example, opened in 2017 and is slated to host several matches for the World Cup. Sochi, well-known as the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics, is another Russian city that will host World Cup matches. Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium, which opened in 2013, hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for those Olympics and underwent reconstruction when those games were over. It will host several group games and a few other matches for the World Cup.
Suit Up for the World Cup
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