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Dates: Jun 14, 2018 – Jul 15, 2018
Venue(s): 12 (in 11 host cities)
Currency: Russian ruble
Host nation: Russia
The 2018 FIFA World Cup™ in Russia is the 21st edition of the single biggest tournament for the single biggest sport on the planet, and the first to be held in Eastern Europe.
Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup™. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities.
Welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE news blog of the World Cup 2018 in Russia.
We will bring you rolling coverage every day of the tournament, with James Olley, Simon Johnson, Dan Kilpatrick and Vaishali Bhardwaj reporting live from Russia.
The England squad will fly out on Tuesday ahead of their first match against Tunisia, on June 18.
Stay tuned to Standard Sport for all the latest news, rumours and build-up to World Cup 2018!
Who will win the World Cup?
World Cup holders Germany, five-time winners Brazil, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, 2014 runners-up Argentina, Belgium, Poland and 1998 winners France are among the eight seeded teams.
Hosts Russia are also seeded, even though they are the tournament’s lowest-placed team – 70th – in Fifa’s world rankings.
England, who have won only one of their past eight World Cup matches, are unseeded, as are 2010 champions Spain.
Germany have reached at least the semi-finals in each of the past four editions of the competition and, after being the only team to progress through European qualifying with a 100% record, are expected to be in the shake-up again. They are in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
How are England expected to perform?
The closest England have come to repeating their feat of 1966 is a semi-final appearance at Italia 90.
With an average age of 26 years and 18 days, the Three Lions have the third-youngest squad in Russia.
Only three of Gareth Southgate’s 23 players are aged 30 or over – defenders Gary Cahill and Ashley Young, both 32, and 31-year-old forward Jamie Vardy – while defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is the youngest at 19.
Cahill, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones are the only survivors from the squad that finished bottom of their group at the 2014 World Cup under Roy Hodgson.
After their opening game in Volgograd (16:00 BST), England face World Cup debutants Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June (13:00 BST) before rounding off their Group G campaign in Kaliningrad against Belgium four days later (19:00 BST).
Who are the new boys?
Panama and Iceland will be competing at their first World Cup, which is held every four years.
With a population of approximately 335,000 people, Iceland are the smallest nation ever to qualify.
They will hope to repeat their exploits of two years ago, when they lit up Euro 2016 by reaching the quarter-finals in their first appearance at a major tournament, humiliating England en route.
Iceland’s first game in Russia is against 2014 runners-up Argentina on 16 June.
A national holiday was declared in Panama after they qualified for the World Cup for the first time.
The Central American country, 55th in Fifa’s world rankings, boast an experienced coach in Hernan Dario Gomez, who was in charge of his native Colombia at the 1998 World Cup and Ecuador at the 2002 edition.
Referees to get VAR help
Video assistant referees (VAR) will be making a debut at the World Cup.
The technology will be used to help officials avoid making potentially match-deciding mistakes when it comes to such important issues as awarding goals, penalties or red cards.
VAR has been trialled in some domestic English cup games this season, and has been used in Germany and Italy.
“We wanted to give the referees tools so they can make better decisions, and in the World Cup some very important decisions are made,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
“It’s not possible that in 2018 everyone in their living room knows a few seconds after the play whether a referee has made a mistake and the referee doesn’t.”
VAR was first used at the Club World Cup in December 2016, and trialled in the 2017 Confederations Cup.