World Cup 2018: The Road to Russia is almost complete
The biggest sporting event is eight months away, and next June, millions of people will descend on Russia to watch 32 nations play at the FIFA World Cup. In 2014, 3.2 billion people tuned in to watch the tournament in Brazil, and this time around, the figure is expected to be larger.
The 2018 World Cup is nearly set, but there is the matter of the final, non-automatic places being sorted out via a playoff system. There are 23 teams that have qualified thus far from the various soccer confederations around the world. The likes of world powerhouses England, Germany, Spain and France have all booked their tickets. Nations with fewer World Cup credentials such as Iran, Panama and Egypt have also reserved a place by qualifying automatically.
Perhaps the biggest surprise going into the last day of qualification was Argentina’s near miss. The Argentine team had greatly underachieved, and the team needed a three-goal performance from Lionel Messi to pull out a win. The victory proved Argentina’s reliance on the player many consider to be the best in the world.
It wasn’t good news on Tuesday night for the United States. The team, needing just a draw to qualify for the World Cup, suffered a shock defeat to Trinidad and Tobago. The 2-1 loss could have still seen the Yanks go through. However, the stars aligned and Honduras and Panama won, bouncing the Americans from qualification. For the most part, the USA was awful, and fired coach Jurgen Klinsmann a year ago as qualification looked bleak. Even without Klinsmann on the bench, the USA looked out of ideas, lacked quality and seemed to have believed they would qualify without even kicking a ball.
Win and you are in!
There are still several big hitters that could miss out on qualifying for the World Cup next summer. Four-time winners Italy must navigate the tricky waters of a playoff in the UEFA confederation. The Italians will play a two-game playoff against one of four possible sides. Sweden, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Greece are all possible opponents. Fortunately, Italy will avoid Switzerland, Demark and Croatia in the draw, but the team’s road to Russia isn’t easy.
Meet me in Russia!
The 2018 tournament will be the first World Cup played in Russia. Twelve stadiums will host tournament matches with the final being played in Moscow on July 15. In recent weeks, the World Cup stadium in Ekaterinburg has received plenty of attention. Built under FIFA’s required number of seats for World Cup stadiums, the arena’s architects found a quick solution to the problem. The remedy? They removed one end of the stadium and built a rising stand outside of the venue. It makes for an insane structure, and comes off as one group’s idea to circumvent rules when they have miscalculated.
Despite reported delays in construction of all 12 venues, Russia has stated the stadiums will be ready for the World Cup.
By the time the first ball is kicked on June 14 in Moscow, it will have been four long years since the previous World Cup. The wait is almost over for the return of the world’s biggest sporting event. Welcome back!