In the period ahead, all eyes will be directed to the most important secondarything of the world, and that is the 21st World Football Championship, which will be held in Russia from June 14th to July 15th. This will be the first world championship held in Europe since the 2006 championship in Germany, and it will also be the first championship held in Eastern Europe in general, but first held in a country whose territory is on two continents. However, all matches will be played in stadiums located in the European part of Russia, in order to maintain travel time. 32 national teams will take part in the championship, out of which 31 were ranked through qualifying matches, plus Russia as host of the championship. They will be divided into 8 groups, playing a total of 64 matches in 12 locations located in 11 cities. The final match will be held on July 15 in Moscow at the well-known “Luzhniki”stadium.
It is interesting to note that a total of 20 nations will again take part in the championship after the previous one in 2014, including title-holder Germany. Also, Iceland and Panama will witness their first World Cup, as they passed the qualifiers for the first time. They also both hold the title smallest nations, in terms of population, of this championship. Among the national teams returning after a long absence are: Egypt, returning after 28 years of absence from their last competition in 1990, Morocco who last competed in 1998. Peru returns after a 36-years leave in 1982 and Senegal will appear for the second time after the 2002 championship where they were placed in the quarter-finals. For the first time, three Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland and Sweden) and four Arab countries (Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) will jointly take part in a world championship. Significant countries that failed to qualify are the four-time champions Italy (for the first time since 1958) and thethree-time finalistsNetherlands. Also, the conquerors of the African Cup of Nations in 2017 Cameroon, and Chile, the two-time Copa America winner and the national champion in 2017, did not enter the championship. Among them, New Zealand and the United States, as well as Ghana and Ivory Coast, are breaking out of the series of three appearances in a row.
At the beginning, it was suggested that the championship be held in 13 cities: Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, St. Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, Yaroslavl and Ekaterinburg with a total of 16 stadiums. Later the number was reduced to 11 cities and 12 stadiums, eliminating Krasnodar and Jaroslav, as the construction of two stadiums was canceled. Three of the existing stadiums (Luzhniki, Ekaterinburg and Sochi) were renovated, and the remaining 9 were newly built. About 10 billion euros were spent on the construction and renovation. The most used stadiums will be “Luzhniki” in Moscow and the stadium in St. Petersburg, with 7 matches each. Sochi, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara will host 6 matches, including one quarter-final. Five games will take place at the “Otkritie Arena” stadiums in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, while four will be played in Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Ekaterinburg and Saransk. The official mascot of the championship is “Zabivaka”, which in translation would mean “the one who scores”. It is an anthropomorphic wolf with a jersey that reads “RUSSIA 2018”. The shirt and shorts of the mascot are combined with a white, blue and red color that symbolizes the colors of the Russian flag and the Russian team. In the end, we remain to enjoy the championship and hope that it will bring us a lot of excitement, sensation and great play.