Every four years, the eyes of the world converge on the FIFA World Cup. A month long tournament pitting the best soccer nations against one another to determine a champion. This summer will be no different as 32 nations head to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
This World Cup has be marred by controversy and corruption since the bid was handed out over seven years ago. Even to this day, the day the World Cup begins in Moscow, questions are still being asked. Those questions will never be answered.
Once the first ball is kicked and the first goal is scored, you will be distracted by the anthems, the fans, the stadiums, and the players. For the next month nothing else will matter. Everything will go off without a hitch and you’ll sit in front of your television cheering for your side.
That is both the good and bad of sport, it serves as a distraction from reality while also distracting us from what we should be focusing on. When the final whistles sounds and the trophy is awarded, reality will smack us in the face but at that point it will be too late.
While there is a black shadow hanging over this tournament, try to still enjoy it. It’s not the players fault things are the way they are, they just want to play a kid’s game and bring glory to their home country. That’s all you can ask for really.
We only get this moment once every four years. Don’t waste it.
Before we jump into the meat of our recap, let’s take a second and highlight the basics of the 2018 FIFA World Cup set to kick off today:
- Host: Russia
- Dates: June 14-July 15
- Number of teams: 32
- From five different confederations
- Groups: 8 groups consisting of 4 teams each
- Stadiums: 12
- 11 host cities
- U.S. Television: Fox Sports
- Match Ball: Telstar 18 (Adidas)
- Mascot: Zabivaka
- Defending Champions: Germany
When the 2018 FIFA World Cup was awarded to Russia in 2010, there was an immediate uproar around the world accusing FIFA of corruption in handing the tournament to Russia over the favorites, England. In the seven and a half years since, those cries of corruption have been validated time and time again.
For years FIFA has been embroiled in scandal and it eventually caught up to them. Then FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been removed from his post and banned from football along with many other high ranking FIFA officials. The voting system has been altered and will be used for the first time when all FIFA member countries vote on the 2026 World Cup.
Despite all the criticism and claims of corruption, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be played in Russia as originally planned.
Here’s a short primer on the much maligned host nation:
- Official Name: Russian Federation
- Capital: Moscow
- Leader: Vladimir Putin
- Population: 144.5 million
- Continent: Europe/Asia
- Language: Russian
- Timezone: Games will be played between UTC +2 to UTC +5.
- Between 6 and 9 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. 9:00AM EST=4:00PM Moscow time.
- Previous World Cup Hosts: None
- Home Team: Russian National Team
- Fourth appearance in the FIFA World Cup.
Even with all of the controversy surrounding Russia at the moment, especially in the political sphere, billions of eyes from around the world will be fixated on the country as the globe’s biggest soccer tournament plays out over the next month. Here’s to hoping it all goes well and the noise surrounding it stays exactly that, just noise.
Twelve stadiums in eleven cities across Russia will host games during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Ranging from Kaliningrad in the West to Sochi in the South and all the way to Yekaterinburg in the East, you will see plenty of sights if you tune into the World Cup this summer.
- City: Moscow
- Capacity: 81,000
- Matches: RUS/KSA, GER/MEX, POR/MAR, DEN/FRA, Round of 16, Semifinal, Final
The first of Moscow’s two stadiums, Luzhniki Stadium is the larger of the two and renovated for the 2018 World Cup. Luzhniki is the home stadium of the Russian National Team and will play host to the opening match of the tournament as well as the Final.
- City: Moscow
- Capacity: 45,360
- Matches: ARG/ISL, POL/SEN, BEL/TUN, SRB/BRA, Round of 16
The smaller of the two Moscow stadiums is Spartak Stadium home to famed Russian club team Spartak Moscow. The stadium will host five matches, four from the group stage and one knockout game.
Saint Petersburg Stadium
- City: Saint Petersburg
- Capacity: 68,134
- Matches: MAR/IRN, RUS/EGY, BRA/CRC, NGA/ARG, Round of 16, Semifinal, Third Place
One of the newest stadiums built in advance of the 2018 World Cup, St. Petersburg is home to perennial Russian power Zenit St. Petersburg. The stadium will host one of the two semifinal matches as well as the third place game.
- City: Sochi
- Capacity: 47,659
- Matches: POR/ESP, BEL/PAN, GER/SWE, AUS/PER, Round of 16, Quarterfinal
Built for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Fisht Stadium is back in action for the 2018 World Cup. The southern most of all the stadiums, Fisht will host the big Portugal/Spain showdown as well as two knockout round matches.
- City: Samara
- Capacity: 44,918
- Matches: CRC/SRB, DEN/AUS, URU/RUS, SEN/COL, Round of 16, Quarterfinal
One of the newest stadiums built for the 2018 World Cup, Samara Stadium just hosted its first match in late April but it is ready to go for the world stage. Home to six matches in total, including two in the knockout rounds.
- City: Kazan
- Capacity: 45,379
- Matches: FRA/AUS, IRN/ESP, POL/COL, KOR/GER, Round of 16, Quarterfinal
Home to Russian side Rubin Kazan, Kazan Arena has been in existence for over five years now and played host to Confederations Cup matches in 2017. Four group games and two knockout games will be help in Kazan Arena during the World Cup.
- City: Rostov-on-Don
- Capacity: 45,000
- Matches: BRA/SUI, URU/KSA, KOR/MEX, ISL/CRO, Round of 16
Another new stadium build specifically for the 2018 World Cup, Rostov Arena will be making its debut on the world’s biggest stage. The arena will play host to four key group stage matches and one Round of 16 matchup.
- City: Volgograd
- Capacity: 45,568
- Matches: TUN/ENG, NGA/ISL, KSA/EGY, JPN/POL
Tune into see Volgograd Arena while you can because after the group stage concludes you’ll have missed your chance. Built for the World Cup and the local soccer club, this stadium will only host four matches.
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
- City: Nizhny Novgorod
- Capacity: 44,899
- Matches: SWE/KOR, ARG/CRO, ENG/PAN, SUI/CRC, Round of 16, Quarterfinal
Another new stadium built in the run up to the 2018 World Cup, Nizhny Novgorod will be making its debut on the biggest stage in soccer. The stadium will play host to six matches, four in the group stage and two in the knockout rounds.
- City: Saransk
- Capacity: 44,442
- Matches: PER/DEN, COL/JPN, IRN/POR, PAN/TUN
Once again, Mordovia Arena was built specifically for the 2018 World Cup but will become the home of the local club team in the future. Mordovia joins Volgorod Arena in only hosting games for the group stage.
- City: Yekaterinburg
- Capacity: 35,696
- Matches: EGY/URU, FRA/PER, JPN/SEN, MEX/SWE
Originally built in 1957, Ekaterinburg Arena is the oldest of all the stadiums playing host to the 2018 World Cup. To meet FIFA seating regulations, the stadium had to be outfitted with special temporary bleachers that sit outside the stadium. Four group stage matches will be played at the retro-fitted arena.
- City: Kaliningrad
- Capacity: 35,212
- Matches: CRO/NGA, SRB/SUI, ESP/MAR, ENG/BEL
Opening just in the nick of time, Kaliningrad Stadium was another grounds built specifically for the 2018 World Cup before being turned over to the local club team. The western most stadium won’t be in the spotlight long, hosting just four group matches.
Each stadium will host four group stages matches during the 2018 World Cup. Once the knockout rounds begin, only a select few stadium will host matches in the Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, the Third Place Match, and ultimately the Final on July 15th.
A total of 32 teams from around the world will be in Russia this summer competing for soccer’s greatest prize. Those 32 teams represent five different confederations that make up FIFA as a whole. Each confederation has its own qualifying format with its own set of challenges.
Participating nations will be grouped by the continental confederation below. Beside each team in parentheses is their FIFA code and their FIFA World Ranking.
Five nations from the Asian continent will be playing in the 2018 World Cup.
- Australia (AUS; 36)
- Iran (IRN; 37)
- Japan (JPN; 61)
- Saudi Arabia (KSA; 67)
- South Korea (KOR; 57)
Five countries from Africa survived qualifying and will feature in Russia this summer.
- Egypt (EGY; 45)
- Morocco (MAR; 41)
- Nigeria (NGA; 48)
- Senegal (SEN; 27)
- Tunisia (TUN; 21)
CONCACAF (North America)
Three countries from North America will be making their way to Russia for the World Cup. This will be Panama’s first trip to the World Cup.
- Costa Rica (CRC; 23)
- Mexico (MEX; 15)
- Panama (PAN; 55)
CONMEBOL (South America)
Five countries, including five time winner Brazil, will be in Russia for the World Cup.
- Argentina (ARG; 5)
- Brazil (BRA; 2)
- Colombia (COL; 16)
- Peru (PER; 11)
- Uruguay (URU; 14)
Fourteen nations from Europe qualified for the 2018 World Cup, including Russia who were given an automatic bid as the hosts. Iceland will be playing in their first World Cup.
- Belgium (BEL; 3)
- Croatia (CRO; 20)
- Denmark (DEN; T12)
- England (ENG; T12)
- France (FRA; 7)
- Germany (GER; 1)
- Iceland (ISL; 22)
- Poland (POL; 8)
- Portugal (POR; 4)
- Russia (Host; RUS; 70)
- Serbia (SRB; 34)
- Spain (ESP; 10)
- Sweden (SWE; 24)
- Switzerland (SUI; 6)
Italy, Chile, The United States, The Netherlands, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Greece
In December, FIFA held the World Cup draw where the 32 qualified teams were separated into four different pots based on their World Ranking. One ball from each pot was picked and those four teams formed one of the eight different groups that make up the group stage portion of the World Cup.
Each team will play three group games in a round robin style, meaning each team in the group will play the other three teams in the group. The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout rounds.
Group stage points are awarded as such: Win=3 points, Draw=1 point, Loss=0 points. Goal differential is the tie breaker.
As hosts, Russia was automatically placed in Group A.
- Saudi Arabia
Russia is not expected to make much noise but the host nation could not have asked for a better group if they do hope to advance. Uruguay will be the favorite but expect Egypt to make some noise in their first World Cup since 1990.
Projected Finish: Uruguay, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia
Spain and Portugal meet on the second day of the tournament and the winner will have a leg up on the rest of the competition moving forward. Even the loser of that game is still expected to advance.
Projected Finish: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Iran
A favorable draw means France will be the heavy favorites to win the group outright. Second place will likely be decided between Denmark and Peru.
Projected Finish: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Lionel Messi and Co. will be feeling the pressure to deliver a World Cup back to Argentina but they should win this group. The battle for second place should be hotly contested by three capable teams.
Projected Finish: Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland
- Costa Rica
Another group with a clear favorite in Brazil who will be looking to avenge their embarrassing semifinal performance from 2014. Another second place battle will be heating up here as well.
Projected Finish: Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Costa Rica
- South Korea
Defending champion Germany will be looking to repeat and have a favorable draw to get started. Mexico looks to be second best on paper and hope to advance past the Round of 16 for the first time in 24 years.
Projected Finish: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Belgium are in the midst of a golden generation but they have no hardware to show for it. That could change in Russia. England should also be happy with the draw and could easily come out on top.
Projected Finish: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Perhaps the most wide open group in the tournament where anyone could feasibly win. Colombia will be looking to relive their fairytale from 2014 while Senegal could be a dark horse African side to make noise.
Projected Finish: Colombia, Senegal, Poland, Japan
Group Winners: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Colombia
Second Place: Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Croatia, Switzerland, Mexico, England, Senegal
Once the group stage has been completed and the group winners and second place finishers have been determined, those 16 teams will advance to the knockout rounds where they are placed in a bracket based on where they finished in their group.
Knockout games are winner take all and loser goes home. If the game is tied after 9- minutes, the teams will play to 15 minutes extra time periods. If the game remains tied after extra time, a winner is decided by penalty kicks.
Last team standing wins the World Cup.
World Cup Schedule
The 2018 World Cup will begin and end at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Games will kickoff on June 14th and the Final will be played on July 15th. It will take 64 matches over the course of a month to determine a champion.
All times listed as Eastern Standard Time
Thursday, June 14
11:00 AM: Russia v. Saudi Arabia (FOX)
Friday, June 15
8:00 AM: Egypt v. Uruguay (FS1)
11:00 AM: Morocco v. Iran (FOX)
2:00 PM: Portugal v. Spain (FOX)
Saturday, June 16
6:00 AM: France v. Australia (FS1)
9:00 AM: Argentina v. Iceland (FOX)
12:00 PM: Peru v. Denmark (FS1)
3:00 PM: Croatia v. Nigeria (FS1)
Sunday, June 17
8:00 AM: Costa Rica v. Serbia (FOX)
11:00 AM: Germany v. Mexico (FS1)
2:00 PM: Brazil v. Switzerland (FS1)
Monday, June 18
8:00 AM: Sweden v. South Korea (FS1)
11:00 AM: Belgium v. Panama (FS1)
2:00 PM: Tunisia v. England (FS1)
Tuesday, June 19
8:00 AM: Colombia v. Japan (FS1)
11:00 AM: Poland v. Senegal (FOX)
2:00 PM: Russia v. Egypt (FOX)
Wednesday, June 20
8:00 AM: Portugal v. Morocco (FS1)
11:00 AM: Uruguay v. Saudi Arabia (FOX)
2:00 PM: Iran v. Spain (FOX)
Thursday, June 21
8:00 AM: Denmark v. Australia (FS1)
11:00 AM: France v. Peru (FOX)
2:00 PM: Argentina v. Croatia (FOX)
Friday, June 22
8:00 AM: Brazil v. Costa Rica (FS1)
11:00 AM: Nigeria v. Iceland (FOX)
2:00 PM: Serbia v. Switzerland (FOX)
Saturday, June 23
8:00 AM: Belgium v. Tunisia (FOX)
11:00 AM: South Korea v. Mexico (FOX)
2:00 PM: Germany v. Sweden (FOX)
Sunday, June 24
8:00 AM: England v. Panama (FS1)
11:00 AM: Japan v. Senegal (FOX)
2:00 PM: Poland v. Colombia (FOX)
Monday, June 25
10:00 AM: Uruguay v. Russia (FOX)
10:00 AM: Saudia Arabia v. Egypt (FS1)
2:00 PM: Spain v. Morocco (FS1)
2:00 PM: Iran v. Portugal (FOX)
Tuesday, June 26
10:00 AM: Australia v. Peru (FS1)
10:00 AM: Denmark v. France (FOX)
2:00 PM: Nigeria v. Argentina (FOX)
2:00 PM: Iceland v. Croatia (FS1)
Wednesday, June 27
10:00 AM: South Korea v. Germany (FS1)
10:00 AM: Mexico v. Sweden (FOX)
2:00 PM: Serbia v. Brazil (FOX)
2:00 PM: Switzerland v. Costa Rica (FS1)
Thursday, June 28
10:00 AM: Japan v. Poland (FS1)
10:00 AM: Senegal v. Colombia (FOX)
2:00 PM: Panama v. Tunisia (FS1)
2:00 PM: England v. Belgium (FOX)
Round of 16
Saturday, June 30
10:00 AM: Group C Winner v. Group D Runner-up
2:00 PM: Group A Winner v. Group B Runner-up
Sunday, July 1
10:00 AM: Group B Winner v. Group A Runner-up
2:00 PM: Group D Winner v. Group C Runner-up
Monday, July 2
10:00 AM: Group E Winner v. Group F Runner-up
2:00 PM: Group G Winner v. Group H Runner-up
Tuesday, July 3
10:00 AM: Group F Winner v. Group E Runner-up
2:00 PM: Group H Winner v. Group G Runner-up
Friday, July 6
10:00 AM: TBD v. TBD
2:00 PM: TBD v. TBD
Saturday, July 7
10:00 AM: TBD
2:00 PM: TBD
Tuesday, July 10
2:00 PM: TBD v. TBD
Wednesday, July 11
2:00 PM: TBD v. TBD
Third Place Match
Saturday, July 14
10:00 AM: Loser Semi-final 1 v. Loser Semi-final 2
Sunday, July 15
11:00 AM: Winner Semi-final 1 v. Winner Semi-final 2
How to Watch
If you’re in the United States then you are beholden to Fox Sports, who own the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2018 World Cup for the country. They will be broadcasting all 64 matches live on either your main FOX channel or on Fox Sports 1. The same goes for any World Cup related shows that Fox will be airing as part of their coverage.
For those of us that may not be near a television during the day, you can stream all the matched on FoxSports.com provided you have a cable subscription at home.
There are also various online streaming services such as Sling TV and Playstation Vue offering special World Cup packages that you may purchase.
If laws are simply a suggestion to you the you’re still in luck. There will be various illegal streams available online from broadcasts around the world. You’ll just have to do the research yourself on those.
Regardless of where you’re at, there are many ways you can watch the 2018 World Cup so you don’t miss a second of the action.
Players to Watch
There are countless players to keep an eye on this summer in Russia but a few stand out from the pack. From the two players who exchange the title of GOAT to some you may never have heard of, here is just a short sampling of some of the talent that will be on display.
Messi is not a man who needs any introduction. Even if you have paid the bare minimum attention to soccer over the past decade plus you’ll be familiar with the Argentinian striker. A World Cup title in Russia will cement his legacy as the best player to ever step on a pitch.
Another man who needs no introduction. He’s the 1B to Messi’s 1A and they are constantly battling back and forth for the title of best in the world. Ronaldo helped lead Portugal to the 2016 European Championships but he would love to add a World Cup to his already spotless resume.
If Brazil is going to win the 2018 World Cup, Neymar is going to lead the way. After suffering an injury during the 2014 World Cup, his Brazilian side crashed at in spectacular fashion. Younger than both Messi and Ronaldo, Neymar is primed to claim the title as best in the world as the others enter the back end of their careers.
Before the 2017/2018 Premier League season, you could be excused for not knowing Salah’s name. Those excuses are gone now as the young Egyptian took England by storm, scoring 32 goals in 36 league games. If Egypt is going to make the most of its first World Cup since 1990, Salah will be the reason.
Much maligned for his play at club level, Pogba is back with the French national team where he has found much success. When allowed to play his game, Pogba is among the best players in the world at his position. He was named “Best Young Player” at the 2014 World Cup.
David de Gea
Taking over for a living legend is no easy task but David de Gea has filled in nicely for Iker Casillas as the Spanish number one. Already the best goalkeeper in Europe, backstopping Spain to a second World Cup title would put de Gea in truly elite company.
Kevin de Bruyne
The engine that made the Manchester City machine go this season, de Bruyne is a key part of the Belgian golden generation with sky high expectations. If he can repeat his Premier League form, Belgium could very well return home champions.
England’s next generation of talent has arrived and they’re spearheaded by Harry Kane up front. A prolific goal scorer at the club level, Kane will need to be on form if England hopes to end over 40 years of misery in Russia.
Salah will get all of the accolades at Liverpool but teammate Sadio Mane is an integral part of the Klopp machine at Anfield. Blazing fast speed allows Sane to break away from defenders with ease and his scoring touch is not too shabby either.
Germany has no shortage of talent to pick from but the young Kimmich sets himself apart. Replacing the legendary Philip Lahm on the German defense, Kimmich will be a major factor in the German’s repeat effort. Kimmich is already pegged as a future captain for his country and he can show off his leadership in Russia.
Predicting who will win the World Cup is both easy and difficult at the same time. There are 32 nations competing but only a handful (5 or 6) have a realistic shot as raising the trophy in Moscow. What makes it so difficult, those handful of teams are separated by so little that it seems impossible to settle on just one as a champion. You also never know when a dark horse team might make a run and upset the whole system.
Here’s our best shot at prediction how the 2018 World Cup will play out:
Second Place: France
Third Place: Belgium
Fourth Place: Germany
Best Player: Paul Pogba (France)
Best Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Spain)
Top Goalscorer: Antoine Griezmann
Dark Horse Team: Croatia
Biggest Disappointment: Brazil
What to Expect From Us
This preview is just the beginning of our 2018 World Cup coverage. If you were around for the 2018 Winter Olympics in February you may already be familiar with our daily previews and recaps of events. We coined the phrase “precap” because they serve as both a preview and recap. We plan on bringing those back for the 2018 World Cup and they will be live each morning. They will feature a look back at the action from the day prior as well as a look ahead to the action scheduled for that day.
There may be some other World Cup content popping up the the site from time to time so make sure you are checking in regularly to keep up to date on all of the action.