2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
The decision to award the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia may have been somewhat controversial, but the anticipation and excitement towards the build-up for the tournament are immense. Boasting a football-mad population of over 140 million in the world’s largest country means that starting with the opening match on June 14, 2018, and on, until the final, to be played on July 15, this will undoubtedly be an event to be remembered, filled with exciting football contests.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament will again demonstrate what a simple ball game means to global citizens, bringing people and even nations closer together, serving as a unifying force to Russia’s 190 ethnicities and approximately 2,000 nationalities from around the world.
Football is very much part of Russian culture and has been so for well over a century, since it was introduced at the suggestion of English engineers who worked at the factories of industrialist Savva Morozov. From there it quickly spread throughout the country, then the mighty Soviet Union.
The final of the World Cup will be played in the 81,000 seat Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. In addition to the capital, host cities include Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd and Yekaterinburg, all in or near the European side of Russia, in order to minimize travel time.
Other than Russia, who has received an automatic bid as the host country, 209 national teams are competing for 31 open spots, to be divided as follows:
Europe (13 spots): Seven groups of six nations and two groups of five. All group winners qualify automatically, with the eight best runners-up facing a two-leg playoff. The record of the team finishing in sixth place in groups 1-7 is discounted to determine the best runners-up.
South America (4.5 spots): All teams play each other home and away. The top four earn a qualification, whilst the fifth will play an intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceania region.
CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football – 3.5 spots): One group of six teams, with the top three qualify and the fourth face a playoff against a team from Asia.
Africa (5 spots): Five group winners qualify.
Asia (4.5 spots): Two group winners and runners up qualify. Two teams that finish third will play a two-legged playoff and the winner facing an inter-confederation playoff against a CONCAF team.
Oceania (0.5 spots): The winner of an intercontinental playoff will face the fifth South American team.
Once all 32 teams qualify, FIFA will held a draw to place the teams in eight groups. The draw will be held December 1, 2017, in Moscow.
When it all began in 1930, nobody had to qualify for the World Cup, but rather, the 13 participating teams were called to Uruguay “by invitation only”. The first tournament which required teams to qualify for was held in Italy in 1934, in which 16 teams took part. That number remained static until Spain 1982, that hosted a 24-team tournament. France, four years later, registered another increase, this time to 32 nations, the same number of teams that will participate in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Pressure from the UEFA and FIFA officials and the opportunity to significantly increase revenues from future tournaments has led to adopting a further increase, bringing every tournament from 2026 onwards to include 48 qualifiers, thus doubling the number of teams participating in 1982.
How to choose and attend Matches
During the first stage, teams are divided into eight groups, each consisting of four teams. The top qualifiers will be seeded as No, 1 in each group. Russia, for instance, is the first team in group A, therefore the other teams in that group will be called A2, A3 and A4. Each team will play one another for a total of three matches. The top two teams in each group will advance to the next round.
Once we get into the next round of 16, the tournament now becomes a knock-out. The matches, marked AF1-AF8, work out as follows:
AF1: Winner Group C v Second Place Group D
AF2: Winner Group A v Second Place Group B
AF3: Winner Group B v Second Place Group A
AF4: Winner Group D v Second Place Group C
AF5: Winner Group E v Second Place Group F
AF6: Winner Group G v Second Place Group H
AF7: Winner Group F v Second Place Group E
AF8: Winner Group H v Second Place Group G
During the quarter-finals, the winners of each of the matches above play each other as follows:
VF1: Winner AF1 v Winner AF2
VF2: Winner AF3 v Winner AF4
VF3: Winner AF5 v Winner AF6
VF4: Winner AF7 v Winner AF8
The semi-finals pit the winner of VF1 against the winner of VF2 and the winner of VF3 against the winner of VF4. The winners of course will be contesting in the next finals, with the losers fighting it out for third place.
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