The FIFA World Cup Kicks Off In Russia On June 14th 2018

World Cup Starts June 14th 2018

World Cup Starts June 14th 2018

The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia on June 14, with excited football fans looking forward to a month of fantastic action. The world's biggest sporting event will see 32 teams battle it out for the biggest prize in football. Most of the big teams and best players will be on display, with past winners Germany the favourites to take out the title along with South American giants Brazil. Let's take a look at the destinations, teams, and players to watch out for during the 21st FIFA World Cup.

The format

The World Cup tournament is held every four years and contested by 32 international teams. While there are calls to include more teams in the next World Cup, the Russia competition will include the standard eight groups of four teams. The tournament includes an initial group stage of three matches for each team, with two qualifying teams from each group moving on to a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final. A point-based system is used for the group stage, with a knock-out format used for subsequent rounds.

The destination

Mother Russia is home to the World Cup in 2018, with 11 cities hosting matches in some of the newest and most famous stadiums in Europe. Along with renowned tourist hotspots like Saint Petersburg and Moscow, football fans can also look forward to visiting Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, Kazan, Saransk, Samara, Volgograd, Rostov-On-Don, and Sochi. With a population of 146 million, and some of the most inspiring cities and scenery on Earth, Russia promises to be a great host for this fantastic sporting event.

The teams

While some big names such as Italy and Chile failed to make the cut, most of the great footballing nations will be on display in Russia. Germany won the last World Cup in 2014, and they are the favourites to take it out again. Brazil are another team with fantastic form going into the competition, with other nations to look out for including Argentina, Belgium, Portugal, and Spain. While they have a long history of disappointing their fans, England are also in great form at the moment and have their best chance for a long time.

Germany

The current champions will be looking to equal Brazil's record of five World Cups. Currently ranked number one in the world, and showing great form in their lead-up matches, Germany is always hard to beat. While they might not play the most inspiring brand of football in the world, Germany is solid and dependable when it matters.

Germany's group matches will be against Korea Republic, Sweden, and the always tricky, Mexico. Players to look out for include Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, and the possible return of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. It will be interesting to see whether Sami Khedira or lkay Gundogan is preferred for link-up duties in the midfield.

Brazil

One of the biggest games at the last World Cup was when Germany humiliated Brazil 7-1. The five-time champions are in great form this time around, however, and will be looking for sweet revenge in Russia. A great qualifying campaign and recent friendly win over Germany certainly sees them in good stead.

Brazil will have to navigate some pretty tough opposition in their group, however, with Serbia, Costa-Rica, and Switzerland all pretty hard to beat on a good day. While the availability of Neymar after surgery on his broken foot will have a huge impact on their chances, Brazil is hardly struggling for depth up-front with Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino.

Argentina

Argentina are another team worth watching out for, with the two-time champions losing the 2014 final to Germany. While already regarded by many as the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi would love to take out a World Cup title while he's still in peak form.

Belgium

Belgium is another exciting proposition in Russia, with what is probably their most talented squad of all time. Play-maker Kevin de Bruyne has been in fantastic form for Manchester City all year, with other big names including forwards Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Portugal

Portugal are in an interesting place this time around, having won the European Championship in 2016 but failing to find spark in their qualifying matches. Ronaldo, like always, is pivotal to their hopes, and just like Messi, the 33 year old would love to take out a World Cup title before it's too late.

Spain

Portugal's neighbours and 2010 champions Spain are another team that you can never count out. Iniesta is still doing his magic, Isco is in amazing form, and the back three of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and David de Gea are still pretty hard to break down. While Spain always seem to struggle up front, both Morata and Costa are enticing propositions.

The outsiders

While Australia are massive outsiders in Russia, with a group that includes Peru, Denmark and France, they do have a small chance of progressing to the knock-out stages. Uruguay are a more realistic outside chance to keep your eyes on, with star strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez capable of tearing any team to shreds when they're in form. England will be looking to avoid the disappointment of the last few World Cups, and after such a great qualifying campaign, I guess anything is possible. Other teams that may surprise people in June are Columbia, Poland, and Serbia.