For us football fans around the globe, the World Cup is when the world stops spinning every four years. It’s when you watch, drink, and cheer with friends in front of the TV at home, at your favorite pub, or maybe even in our office when the boss is a fan as well. You might even be one of those planning a pilgrimage to the host country, chanting for your favorite team in each stadium they’re playing at.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the last World Cup in Brazil is already four years behind us. But we know, a part of you also feels like the next tournament couldn’t come soon enough. If you’re a fan who’s been busy with other stuff lately, we’re here to help you catch up with the news. Here are 7 things you need to know about this year’s FIFA World Cup.
1. Russia is hosting for the first time.
On December 2, 2010, football history was made. It was announced that for the first time ever, Russia will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The news was received ecstatically by football fans from the world’s biggest country.
Russia is a unique country with a rich culture and history. So if you ever find yourself in Moscow watching the World Cup finals, make sure you also pay a visit to the Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. The laws and culture could also differ from what you’re used to, so be sure to read this primer for first-time tourists.
2. The finals will be played in a spectacular 80,000-seat stadium.
The tournament will run from June 14 to July 15, 2018, with events spread across 11 cities, including Sochi and St Petersburg. Seven games, including the opener and finals, will be played in the massive Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The Luzhniki Stadium is considered the national stadium of Russia. It was also the main stadium used in the 1980 Olympics.
The Fisht Olympic Stadium, used in the 2014 Winter Olympics, will also host the matches to be held in Sochi.
3. Defending Champion Germany is still favored to win.
The 2014 World Cup Champions enter the 2018 tournament with a flawless record of 4/4 wins in the qualifiers. Other than their strong showing in recent months, it’s also worth noting that the team was the most consistent World Cup performer in the past decade. They scored the most goals more than any team in the last three tournaments (18 in 2014, 16 in 2010, and 14 in 2006). This year, they could be the first team to win back-to-back titles since Brazil did it 60 years ago.
4. If any team can upset Germany, it’s Brazil.
Speaking of Brazil, the 5-time World Cup Champions also has a good chance of winning their sixth trophy in Russia. The Selecao caught some hype earlier this year when they announced 15 names on their roster--all of whom are high-profile players. Four are Premier League stars, including the legendary footballer Neymar and rising talent Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City. Also on the list is Liverpool forward Roberto Firimino, who had an incredible run with 20 goals in the past season.
5. This is the penultimate World Cup with 32 teams.
Thirteen teams from Europe, five from Africa, 10 from Asia and South America, three from North America, and one from host country Russia--all add up to the 32 teams that will be playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. From 2026 onwards, there will be 48 participating teams.
6. The 2018 World Cup Logo was first unveiled on the International Space Station.
The official emblem of the 2018 World Cup in Russia was first revealed in 2014 by three cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. The logo uses red and blue, which are colors of the Russian flag, lined with streaks of gold. The design features symbols representing space exploration and traditional Russian folk motifs.
7. A wolf named Zabivaka™ is the event’s official mascot.
Russian football fans were eagerly involved in creating mascot concepts for FIFA. A mascot design contest was opened to the public, and the winner was chosen from an online poll. Ultimately, Zabivaka--a wolf whose name means “the one who scores”--became the official symbol of the 2018 World Cup. The character was designed by a university student, Ekaterina Bocharova. This fierce but charming mascot will grace the stadiums to inspire energy and enthusiasm among spectators.
Ready to chant and cheer for your favorite players and teams? Why not show your support by wearing their team apparel too?