The most anticipated sporting tournament in history has finally kicked off with host nation Russia playing Saudi Arabia in what our editor has dubbed the ‘Oil Classico’. Hundreds of thousands of spectators from far flung corners of the world are in Russia to observe the beautiful game played at its highest platform. For the newbies wondering what all the fuss is about, SHAAZIA EBRAHIM and FATIMA MOOSA have put together a little guide to the world cup.
How does the actual World Cup work?
There are 32 teams who have qualified for the World Cup. These are: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Argentina, Spain, France, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Morocco, Tunisia, England, Belgium, Japan, Korea Republic, Croatia, Mexico, Uruguay, Switzerland, Serbia, Australia, Iran, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Denmark, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, and Sweden.
#WorldCup line-up, by confederation:
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â€” FIFA World Cup ðŸ† (@FIFAWorldCup) November 16, 2017
The teams have been split into eight four-team groups, drawn from four pots. Teams were placed in the pots according to their position in the Fifa world rankings for October last year. The two teams with the most points in each group will proceed to the Round of 16 and teams will be kicked out in each round until there only two teams will be left in the final.
The Stadiums Of The World Cup
There are 12 stadiums across Russia that will host the 64 matches of the World Cup. The biggest stadium called Luzhniki Stadium is in Moscow and seats 81 006. It was built in the 1950s, used during the 1980 Olympic Games, and hosts most matches played by the Russian national team. Manchester United fans will remember it fondly as it was here that the club won their third European title beating Chelsea on penalties in 2008. The other stadium in Moscow is Spartak stadium with a capacity of 43 298.
With a capacity of 68 134, the St Petersburg Stadium is the second biggest stadium in Russia and will also host some big games too. Initially built in 1953, Ekaterinburg Arena has a capacity of 35 696 and is situated at the foot of the Ural mountains in Ekaterinburg, the city where members of the royal family were executed after the October 1917 revolution.
Kaliningrad Stadium and Fisht Stadium were built specifically for the World Cup. The other smaller stadiums are Kazan Arena, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Rostov Arena, Samara Arena, and the Volgograd Arena and are scattered across the country.
The Mordovia Arena in Saransk is an interesting one because it looks alarmingly like our FNB stadium in Nasrec, Johannesburg. Our stadium is bigger though (and better) seating 94 736 people compared to Morodovia’s 44 442.
Russians say that their 2018 World Cup Stadium the Mordovia Arenaâ€™s similarity to FNB Stadium is purely â€˜accidental coincidenceâ€™ ðŸ‡·ðŸ‡ºðŸ‡¿ðŸ‡¦ pic.twitter.com/7d25EHdkqG
â€” Mzilikazi wa Afrika (@IamMzilikazi) May 9, 2018
When they copy your homework but make smallanyana changes. Russia’s new 2018 World Cup Mordovia Arena compared to South Africa’s 2010 Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. ðŸ™ƒðŸ¤” pic.twitter.com/LAIKi27Ag0
â€” Ulrich Janse van Vuuren (@UlrichJvV) May 8, 2018
Fiercest International Rivalries
There are great football rivalries which are generally based on politics, ideology, or the battle for titles. Spain vs Portugal is one of the oldest football rivalries and have faced each other a total of 35 times with 16 Spanish victories, six Portuguese, and 13 draws. Footballing fans are in for a treat: the two will meet each other on 15 June. Iran vs Saudi Arabia is also a big rivalry split between religious ideology and simmering political tensions. It’s unlikely for them to meet as Iran is in a group with Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Croatia vs Serbia is a recent, unsurprising rivalry considering both countries were part of Yugoslavia, and border disputes are common. When they met for the first time in 1999, riots and protest overshadowed the 0-0 draw. It’s unlikely that the two will meet considering how the groups are structured.
The England vs Argentina rivalry began in ’66 when England beat Argentina whose captain Antonio Rattin was escorted from the pitch by police, the English called the Argentines “animals” after the game. Four years after the Falklands War in 1986, Diego Maradona humiliated them with the Hand of God. Then there was David Beckham’s red card in 1998. However, it’s also unlikely that the two will meet this World Cup.
There is a strong rivalry between South American teams Argentina, Uruguay,
and Brazil. There’s a chance we could see at least one rivalry meeting in later stages of the tournament as all the teams have a chance of progressing. Argentina vs Brazil are considered the greatest rivalry of all time. We were robbed of an Argentina-Brazil final in the 2014 World Cup when Germany annihilated Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals. Fingers crossed for these greats to meet again.
What Do Players Do In Their Downtime?
There’s a ton of speculation on what players do when they’re not kicking a ball around at matches or practice. But it seems that they catch the other matches on TV, play a ton of Playstation or XBox, listen to music, or just exercise and work out more. If you’re like the Belgium team, you’ll spend your time off going wild… by playing Uno cards.
Who are the players?
While most football fans will be rooting for their chosen teams to do well and take home the illustrious trophy, the World Cup is largely about those individual stars who stand out and make fans gasp in wonder every time they have the ball at their feet. Oftentimes a team might not do well but it is that one player who manages to wow everyone. Of course all eyes will on Ronaldo (especially since this is the Portugal captain’s last tournament), Messi, Neymar, Pogba, and all the other big names who will be gracing our screen. We can’t wait to see who the breakout star of Russia 2018 will be. In 2014 it was James Rodriguez from Colombia. This time around we will just have to wait and see who produces those amazing performances on the field for their team. But if you want a proper go-to to all of the players from the 32 countries who will be heading to Russia, The Guardian has put together this handy guide of all 736 players who will be at the tournament.
We know most people will be watching the field to see what feats of greatness the players will be pulling off to take their team to victory. But we have got to say WAG-watching is one of the most fun things to do during a World Cup. For the uncultured, a WAG is a wife or girlfriend of a football player (men’s football is still notoriously homophobic so there aren’t many queer players). The term was inspired by the greatest WAG, Victoria Beckham, way back when. While the on field antics are exciting, watching the WAGS is tons of fun as well. From Shakira to Antonella Roccuzzo, there are plenty of WAGs who will be at the games as we can’t wait to spot them.