FIFA World Cup 2018: History, Important Facts, Teams and Their Specialties

The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup kicked off in the Russian capital of Moscow. 32 nations, divided into eight groups, will battle it out for the coveted trophy in the quadrennial month-long event. Germany is the defending champions, with five-time winners Brazil emerging as favourites. Top shot players like Argentine Lionel Messi, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah will all be taking part in the tournament looking to guide their teams to glory. 

Now let us take a quick look at the 5 surprises at the qualifiers:
1. Argentina almost not getting through the qualifiers-  For a moment, it looked as if 2014’s runner-ups wouldn’t be boarding the plane to Russia. But, as always, when you least expect it, Lionel Messi to the rescue. The 30-year-old scored his 44th career hat-trick to nudge them to a 3-1 victory.
2. The Netherlands not making it to the top 32- While at one end, fans rejoiced over Argentina’s entry to Russia, the atmosphere was subdued when the Netherlands captain Arjen Robben announced his retirement from international football after the Dutch team failed to qualify for the 21st World Cup.
3. Iceland in- In a first, Iceland with a population of about 350,000 people (for context, this slightly more than half of Sikkim’s population), became the smallest country in the world to qualify in the FIFA World Cup. The previous smallest country to have reached the World Cup was Trinidad & Tobago (population of 1.3 million) in 2006.
4. Italy failed to qualify for first World Cup in 60 years after the play-off defeat to Sweden.
5. The USA loses its spot- Life is full of ups and downs. The United States football team found this out the hard way when, after a 4-0 win against Panama which almost assured them of their spot in the top 32, they lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago.
Here are few Important teams of FIFA World Cup 2018 and their specialities:

1. ARGENTINA (FIFA Ranking: 5)
Played 1st FWC in 1930.
Best Achievement- Champion in 1978 and 1986.
Considered one of the best footballers in history, Messi has been voted FIFA’s player of the year on five separate occasions. Argentina’s captain and all-time leading goalscorer will be making his fourth World Cup appearance at Russia 2018.
2. BELGIUM (FIFA Ranking: 3)
Played 1st FWC in 1930.
Best Achievement- 4th place 1986.
Speedy, skilful and a master at both creating and scoring goals, Hazard is one of the most exciting forwards in world football.
3. BRAZIL (FIFA Ranking: 2)
Played 1st FWC in 1930.
Best Achievement- Champion 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.
A FIFA Confederations Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist, Neymar is set to make his second appearance at a World Cup. The Paris Saint-Germain star also won the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup title with former club Barcelona.
4. FRANCE (FIFA Ranking: 7)
Played 1st FWC in 1930.
Best Achievement- Champion 1998
France forward will be out to make his mark on another major competition, having been top scorer
and player of the tournament at UEFA EURO 2016. 
5. GERMANY (FIFA Ranking: 1)
Played 1st FWC in 1934.
Best Achievement- Champion 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014.
One of the finest midfielders of his generation, Kroos was a key component in the team that secured Germany’s fourth world title in 2014. He has won the UEFA Champions League with both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
6. PORTUGAL (FIFA Ranking: 4)
Played 1st FWC in 1966.
Best Achievement- 3rd place 1966.
Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers in history. He is the all-time leading scorer for both Portugal and Real Madrid and has been named The Best FIFA Men’s Player for the last two years running.
7. RUSSIA (FIFA Ranking: 70)
Played 1st FWC in 1958.
Best Achievement- 4th place 1966.
A six-time Russian title winner, Akinfeev has over 100 caps for his country. He is also the national team’s captain and will be an influential figure as they attempt to impress on home soil.
8. SPAIN (FIFA Ranking: 10)
Played 1st FWC in 1934.
Best Achievement- Champion 2010.
Ramos is Spain’s second-most capped player and is closing in on Iker Casillas’ all-time record of 167. He also captains La Roja and was a key player in the teams that won two European Championships and one World Cup between 2008 and 2012.
9. SWITZERLAND (FIFA Ranking: 6)
Played 1st FWC in 1934.
Best Achievement- Quarter-finals 1934, 1938, 1954.
Switzerland’s player of the year for 2017, Xhaka is a key man in Vladimir Petkovic’s side. The Arsenal midfielder impressed at Brazil 2014 and will be out to make his mark on another World Cup.
10. URUGUAY (FIFA Ranking: 14)
Played 1st FWC in 1930.
Best Achievement- Champion 1930, 1950.
A prolific striker for club and country, Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer. A European and world champion with Barcelona, the forward has scored five times at the FIFA World Cup, having starred at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.
Interesting Facts About FIFA World Cup 2018:
1. The Prize money for the champion team will be 38 million US Dollars.
2. Zabivaka is the official mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 
3. The official song of the tournament is “Live It Up”, with vocals from Will Smith, Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi.
4. First time in the history of world cup VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system would be used.
5. McDonald’s is the official food partner for the World Cup 2018.
6. The tournament would be played across 11 cities and 12 stadiums.
7. Luzhniki stadium in Moscow has a capacity of 81,000 people and is the biggest stadium rebuilt in Russia on the occasion of World Cup.
8. Iceland and Panama would make their World Cup debut this year.
A look back into the history:
1. The first World Cup was conducted in Uruguay in 1930 and was also won by the host nation.
2. The World Cup has been held 20 times since 1930 and Brazil has won the maximum number of times i.e five.
3. Italy and Germany hold the second place with four wins each.
4. 2014 FIFA World Cup broke all records with approximately 3.2 billion fans who watched the matches all over the world and an average of 53,000 spectators per match.
5. Just once in the history of World Cup, two countries were host nations. South Korea and Japan both were host nations in 2002.
6. Least number of teams participated in 1950. Just 13 teams played after India, Turkey and Scotland withdrew.
7. The World Cup was skipped in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.
8. Brazil is the only nation to play in each tournament.
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