The World Cup is nearly in sight, with soccer fever well and truly setting in. Here at Roadtrips, we know just how exciting it is to be watching those matches live from the stands, and we just can’t wait to get to Russia with our guests and experience this year’s World Cup. If you don’t know much about the World Cup, or you just want to brush up on some facts about the World Cup before June, check out our ultimate guide below.

What is the World Cup?

The World Cup is an international soccer tournament contested by senior men’s national teams from various countries. It is one of the most popular international sporting competitions and over 3 billion people tuned in to watch the 2014 tournament. Fans travel from all over the world to follow their favorite teams as they compete against some of the most talented players in soccer. The World Cup is made up of teams from six different continental zones – Africa, Asia, Europe, North and Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania, and South America.

How often does the World Cup happen?

The World Cup tournament happens every four years, except in 1942 and 1946 when the tournament was not held because of World War 2. The first World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930. The four-year gap between each tournament allows time for the continental zones’ qualification tournaments and the intercontinental play-offs to take place.

How do the teams qualify for the World Cup?

A total of 32 international teams take part in the World Cup with the host country automatically qualifying for a place. Due to the number of teams competing for a spot in the tournament, the qualifying stage spans two to three years depending on the continental zone. Teams in each zone compete in a series of qualifier matches to determine who will represent their nation and win one of 31 coveted spots in the World Cup tournament.

The teams who qualified for the 2018 tournament are:

  • Africa – Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia
  • Asia – Australia, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia
  • Europe – Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
  • North, Central America and Caribbean – Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama
  • South America – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay

Up until 2001, the reigning champions automatically qualified for the next World Cup, but this was removed as organizers believed it left the previous winner at a disadvantage because they hadn’t competed competitively over the four years.

Where is the 2018 World Cup?

This year the World Cup is taking place in Russia from June 14th to July 15th with a total of 64 matches held across 12 stadiums in 11 different cities. The location of the World Cup changes every four years. In each country’s application to host, they must outline why they would be the perfect location and include their plans for stadiums, transport and accommodation for soccer fans. The host country has minimum expectations to meet to qualify and if they meet them a vote is then cast to determine the next host.

The host country for the 2022 tournament is Qatar, with bidding for 2026 still ongoing.

Getting there: visas, travel

Ordinarily, most visitors to Russia require a passport and a visa. In light of the World Cup, the entry requirement has been temporarily changed to allow soccer fans with a FAN ID to gain visa-free entry into the country. Fans will be allowed to enter Russia 10 days before the first game and leave ten days after the final. To enter the country and the match venues, World Cup ticket-holding fans must apply for a FAN ID before travelling to Russia. The FAN ID will also be required to leave the country.

The cities span a large area meaning an ample amount of travel will be required to get both players and fans to and from the venues. The FAN ID will allow soccer fans free use of specific public transport services in each city including inter-city trains.

2018 World Cup Groups

The tournament begins with the Group Stage, where the 32 teams who have been split into eight groups of four at the draw in 2017 will compete in a series of matches.
The groups for this year are:

  • 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, Korea Republic
  • Group G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
  • Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

These four teams will play each other once, with the winner and runner-up advancing to the next stage – the Knockout Stage. The winning team from each group and the runner-up from another will then play against one another at this stage.
Winners from the knockout stage will then proceed to the quarterfinals, with the winners advancing to the semi-finals, and eventually the overall final or third-place match.
The 2026 World Cup will see a change to the current format as the total number of teams qualifying increases from 32 to 48. The number of matches played will rise to 80, with the size of groups changing to 16 with three teams in each.

Which stadiums will host each 2018 World Cup game?

In preparation for the World Cup, purposely built stadiums like the Kaliningrad Stadium and Nizhny Novgorod Stadium have been constructed for the matches, with remaining stadiums like Ekaterinburg Arena being refurbished to include more seats for spectators. The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow is the star attraction, being the most central stadium of the 12 with a seating capacity of 81,000. Luzhniki will host a total of seven games, including the opening match of host country Russia v Saudi Arabia and the final.

2018 World Cup Fixtures and Schedule (subject to change)

  1. Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
    14 June 2018 18:00 – Russia vs Saudi Arabia – Group A
    17 June 2018 18:00 – Germany vs Mexico – Group F
    20 June 2018 15:00 – Portugal vs Morocco – Group B
    26 June 2018 17:00 – Denmark vs France – Group C
    1 July 2018 17:00 – 1B vs 2A – Round of 16
    11 July 2018 21:00 – W59 vs W60 – Semi Final
    15 July 2018 18:00 – W61 vs W62 – Final
  2. Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg
    15 June 2018 18:00 – Morocco vs Iran – Group B
    19 June 2018 21:00 – Russia vs Egypt – Group A
    22 June 2018 15:00 – Brazil vs Costa Rica – Group E
    26 June 2018 21:00 – Nigeria vs Argentina – Group D
    3 July 2018 17:00 – 1F vs 2E – Round of 16
    10 July 2018 21:00 – W57 vs W58 – Semi Final
    14 July 2018 17:00 – L61 vs L62 – Third Place
  3. Fisht Stadium, Sochi
    15 June 2018 21:00 – Portugal vs Spain – Group B
    18 June 2018 18:00 – Belgium vs Panama – Group G
    23 June 2018 21:00 – Germany vs Sweden – Group F
    26 June 2018 17:00 – Australia vs Peru – Group C
    30 June 2018 21:00 – 1A vs 2B – Round of 16
    7 July 2018 21:00 – W51 vs W52 – Quarter Final
  4. Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg
    15 June 2018 17:00 – Egypt vs Uruguay – Group A
    21 June 2018 20:00 – France vs Peru – Group C
    24 June 2018 20:00 – Japan vs Senegal – Group H
    27 June 2018 19:00 – Mexico vs Sweden – Group F
  5. Kazan Arena, Kazan
    16 June 2018 13:00 – France vs Australia – Group C
    20 June 2018 21:00 – Iran vs Spain – Group B
    24 June 2018 21:00 – Poland vs Colombia – Group H
    27 June 2018 17:00 – Korea Republic vs Germany – Group F
    30 June 2018 17:00 – 1C vs 2D – Round of 16
    6 July 2018 21:00 – W53 vs W54 – Quarter Final
  6. Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
    18 June 2018 15:00 – Sweden vs Korea Republic – Group F
    21 June 2018 21:00 – Argentina vs Croatia – Group D
    24 June 2018 15:00 – England vs Panama – Group G
    27 June 2018 21:00 – Switzerland vs Costa Rica – Group E
    1 July 2018 21:00 – 1D vs 2C – Round of 16
    6 July 2018 17:00 – W49 vs W50 – Quarter Final
  7. Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
    17 June 2018 21:00 – Brazil vs Switzerland – Group E
    20 June 2018 18:00 – Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia – Group A
    23 June 2018 18:00 – Korea Republic vs Mexico – Group F
    26 June 2018 21:00 – Iceland vs Croatia – Group D
    2 July 2018 21:00 – 1G vs 2H – Round of 16
  8. Samara Arena, Samara
    17 June 2018 16:00 – Costa Rica vs Serbia – Group E
    21 June 2018 16:00 – Denmark vs Australia – Group C
    25 June 2018 18:00 – Uruguay vs Russia – Group A
    28 June 2018 18:00 – Senegal vs Colombia – Group H
    2 July 2018 18:00 – 1E vs 2F – Round of 16
    7 July 2018 18:00 – W55 vs W56 – Quarter Final
  9. Mordovia Arena, Saransk
    16 June 2018 19:00 – Peru vs Denmark – Group C
    19 June 2018 15:00 – Colombia vs Japan – Group H
    25 June 2018 21:00 – Iran vs Portugal – Group B
    28 June 2018 21:00 – Panama vs Tunisia – Group G
  10. Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
    18 June 2018 21:00 – Tunisia vs England – Group G
    22 June 2018 18:00 – Nigeria vs Iceland – Group D
    25 June 2018 17:00 – Saudi Arabia vs Egypt – Group A
    28 June 2018 17:00 – Japan vs Poland – Group H
  11. Spartak Stadium, Moscow
    16 June 2018 16:00 – Argentina vs Iceland – Group D
    19 June 2018 18:00 – Poland vs Senegal – Group H
    23 June 2018 15:00 – Belgium vs Tunisia – Group B
    27 June 2018 21:00 – Serbia vs Brazil – Group C
    3 July 2018 21:00 – 1H vs 2G – Round of 16
  12. Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
    16 June 2018 21:00 – Croatia vs Nigeria – Group D
    22 June 2018 20:00 – Serbia vs Switzerland – Group E
    25 June 2018 20:00 – Spain vs Morocco – Group B
    28 June 2018 20:00 – England vs Belgium – Group G

This year’s World Cup in Russia is one not to be missed, with all eyes on 2014 champions Germany who are returning to defend their cup after qualifying with a perfect winning streak of 10 out of 10 games. Make sure you sign up for our blog updates, so you don’t miss out on our upcoming ‘2018 World Cup Games to Watch’ post and more.

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