The qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup are well underway. The next round of qualification matches begins this week and will determine who qualifies with Mexico, Australia & South Africa all looking to continue their entries into the big dance. They join hosts Russia as well as Europe’s top teams in what should be an exciting tournament; we’ll keep you updated on results from each match so stay tuned for more information about how your favorite squad could potentially make it onto football’s greatest stage.
Here’s everything you need to know about how they work and who is competing.
The Qualifying Process
The process for qualifying for the World Cup is made up of two stages: the preliminaries and the playoffs. The preliminaries consist of six rounds of matches, which began in September 2016 and will end in November 2017. The teams that finish first in their respective groups will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the eight best runners-up from across all six rounds will progress to the playoffs. The playoffs will be held in March 2018, and the four teams that emerge victoriously will join the automatic qualifiers at the World Cup.
A total of 31 teams are competing in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. The 20 teams that competed at the 2014 World Cup—Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, and Portugal—are automatically qualified. In addition to these countries, there are nine other teams from UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations), five from CAF (the Confederation of African Football), four from CONCACAF (the Confederation of North American and Caribbean Association Football), four from CONMEBOL (the South American football confederation), and one from AFC (the Asian Football Confederation).
So far, the highlights of the qualifiers have been:
• The emergence of new teams, such as Iceland and Panama.
• The resurgence of some teams that had a disappointing performance at the 2014 World Cup, such as Italy and the Netherlands.
• The dominance of some teams in their respective groups, such as Germany and Brazil in UEFA’s Group C.
The Key Players
Some of the key players to look out for in the qualifiers include Lionel Messi (Argentina), Neymar Jr. (Brazil), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Harry Kane (England), and Alexis Sanchez (Chile).
The Betting Odds
As of now, Germany is the favorite to win the World Cup, followed by Brazil, Spain, Argentina, and France. However, with so many matches yet to be played, anything could happen. So make sure to follow the qualifiers closely.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 to July 15 in Russia. A total of 64 matches will be played, and the final will take place at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. 32 teams will compete at the World Cup, with 31 of them having to go through the qualifying process. The 32nd team will be hosts Russia, who automatically qualified.
The draw for the group stage was held on December 1, 2017. The teams were divided into eight groups of four, with each group containing one team from each of the four seeding pots. The groups are as follows:
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
A total of 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities will be used for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Moscow will host the most matches (80), including the opening match on June 14 and the final on July 15. Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Rostov-on-Don will also host some group stage matches. The other venues are Volgograd Arena (Volgograd), Fisht Olympic Stadium (Sochi), Central Stadium (Yekaterinburg), Krestovsky Stadium (Saint Petersburg), Nizhny Novgorod Stadium (Nizhny Novgorod), Samara Arena (Samara), Mordovia Arena (Saransk), and Rostov Arena (Rostov-on-Don).
Russia was announced as the host of the 2018 World Cup on December 2, 2010. This will be the first time that Russia has hosted the World Cup.
The winner of the 2018 World Cup will be the team that wins the final match, which will be played at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018.
The winner of the 2018 World Cup will receive $38 million, while the runner-up will receive $28 million. The prize money for the 32 teams that compete at the World Cup is a total of $400 million, which is an increase from the 2014 World Cup.
The official ball for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is the Adidas Telstar 18. It was unveiled on November 9, 2017.
The official anthem for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is “Live It Up” by Nicky Jam featuring Will Smith and Era Istrefi.
The official mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is Zabivaka™, which is Russian for “the one who scores”. He was unveiled on September 21, 2017.
Tickets for the 2018 FIFA World Cup went on sale on September 14, 2017. A total of 622,547 tickets were sold in the first phase of sales.
FIFA has announced a list of 36 referees and 63 assistant referees who will be officiating at the 2018 World Cup.
The official kit for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was unveiled on November 5, 2017.
The official emblem for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was unveiled on October 28, 2014.
The official trophy for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is the FIFA World Cup Trophy. It was designed by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga and is made of 18-karat gold.
The official motto for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is “Dare to Dream”.
The 2018 World Cup is quickly approaching, and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the event. 32 teams will be competing for the title of World Champion, and there are sure to be some exciting matches along the way. The stadiums that will be used for the World Cup have been completed, and the official ball and anthem have also been revealed. Zabivaka, the official mascot, is sure to bring some fun to the tournament as well. Tickets are now on sale, so make sure to get yours before they’re all gone.