What do you need to know about Russia and the FIFA World Cup before kick off?
It’s here and excitement is building as 32 nations go head-to-head in the world’s biggest sports tournament. But what do you know about the upcoming tournament and how the FIFA World Cup works?
The host nation
Russia will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history after winning the FIFA vote back in 2010. A total of 13 Russian cities will host matches, with the final being held in the Luzhniki Stadium in the capital, Moscow.
For the first time, the FIFA World Cup has approved the use of controversial VAR (video assistant referees) – meaning that referees can make use of video replays, watched by officials not directly involved in the game, to make judgements on goals and punishments throughout the match.
Russia has suffered from football hooliganism in recent years, but the Russian government has taken measures to crack down on violent behaviour to protect fans visiting the country.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday (14th June) where hosts Russia will face Group A opponents Saudi Arabia.
A total of 32 teams from different regions around the world have qualified for the tournament. Teams representing the Middle East, Asia and Oceania include Australia, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The European sides are Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden. South American nations Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay have qualified. African nations Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, will also contest the tournament this summer.
The teams are split into eight groups for the first stage, with each team playing every other team in the group. The two teams with the highest points will qualify, while third and fourth placed in the group will be eliminated.
Teams level on points will be ranked on goal difference, with the teams on the highest goal difference progressing. In the event of teams having the same goal difference and points, progression will be judged by the number of goals scored, the team with the highest going through to the next round.
Of all the 32 qualified teams, 20 have qualified for back-to-back tournaments, while Iceland and Panama will be competing in their first-ever FIFA World Cup.
Tournament favourites to win this year include reigning champions and four-time winners Germany, as well as five-time winners Brazil.
On 28th June, the last group stage game will be played as Panama faces Tunisia in the last match before the beginning of the knockout stages.
The first knockout round, also known as the round of 16, will begin on 30th June, with the winners of Group A facing the runners-up in Group B, and will end on 3rd July when the winners of Group H face the runners-up of Group G.
The Quarter Finals will begin on 6th July, Semi Finals on the 10th July and the Final will be held on 15th July.
Mark your calendar: Six great games from the group stage
15th June: Portugal v Spain. 10pm
16th June: France v Australia. 2pm
17th June: Germany v Mexico. 7pm
17th June: Brazil v Switzerland. 10pm
21st June: Argentina v Croatia. 10pm
28th June: England v Belgium. 10pm