Four things you need to know about the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

Sports Friday 26/January/2018 10:21 AM
By: Times News Service
Four things you need to know about the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

Muscat: With the 2018 FIFA World Cup scheduled to get underway on 14 June, all eyes will be on host nation Russia to see if they can pull of a successful tournament as hosts for the first time.
But before the first football is kicked between Russia and Saudi Arabia on that day, there is still plenty to keep in mind ahead of the tournament:
1. Host nation – Russia
Russia were one of four bids presented to FIFA, ahead of the draw for the selection of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts in 2010. They saw off competition from England, as well as joint bids from Belgium and the Netherlands (who hosted Euro 2000), as well as Spain and Portugal, both of which have also hosted football tournaments.
Soon after former FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced Russia as hosts for this year’s World Cup, he would mark another first by awarding Qatar the rights to host the World Cup in 2022.
2. Where are the games being played?
Twelve venues have been selected for the games, with the Luzhniki Stadium in the capital of Moscow and the St. Petersburg Stadium to be among those that are expected to be the most used. Seven matches will be played at each of these stadia.
The capital’s other iconic stadium – Spartak Stadium, home to club side Spartak Moscow – will also be one of the venues for the tournament.
Kazan – often considered to be the capital of Soviet sport – will also host games at the Kazan Arena. Sochi – which previously hosted the Winter Olympics and last year’s Confederations Cup – is another venue for games.
However, several stadiums are yet to be completed, despite having already crossed, or nearing, their completion dates. Stadiums in Rostov and Nizhny-Novgorod were expected to be finished in December, but still require plenty of work.
As with all major sporting tournaments, there is a political angle to this as well, although host nations don’t really like talking about them. The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad has its stadium situation on an island between Poland and Lithuania. But the wetlands that surround the stadium are not the most stable of surfaces on which to build such large structures.
In addition, stadiums in Samara, home to the Soviet spaceflight programme, Mordovia and Volgograd are all expected to be completed in 2018, but if the fiascos in Brazil are anything to go by, contractors will be scrambling to finish these stadiums on time.
3. Who's at the World Cup?
Most of the big guns are present at the tournament. Two of Europe’s biggest teams – Italy and the Netherlands – did not qualify for Russia 2018.
A host of experienced players for both nations, including Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini announced their retirements soon afterwards.
The other European big guns are present: England, France, Germany and Spain all made it through in some comfort, and they will be joined by Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Switzerland and Sweden alongside hosts Russia this June and July.
Iceland – such crowd favourites at Euro 2016 – are the smallest nation to qualify in World Cup history. They will be joined by Panama as first-timers at a World Cup. Mexico and Costa Rica round off the North American representatives in Russia. The United States have not qualified – though that has little to do with Donald Trump’s current stance against the Russians.
Neither, for that fact, have Chile, so effervescent at previous versions of the Copa America. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (who have 10 World Cups between them) will be joined by Peru and Colombia in Russia.
Four Arab sides have qualified for the first time in the history of the competition: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia will be flying the flag for the region at Russia 2018.
Other Asian nations include Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea, while Africa will be sending Nigeria and Senegal as well. There are no representatives from Oceania after New Zealand lost their two-legged playoff against the Peruvians.
4. When does it all begin?
The Group Stages of the World Cup begin on 14 June, with Russia taking on Saudi Arabia, and ends with them playing Uruguay 15 days later.
All matches are set to kick-off either at 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 10:00 pm Oman time, making for very convenient viewing in you live in the Sultanate.
Games can be watched on BeIN Sports, while most major international broadcasters will also show the game.