For an entire month, between 14 June and 15 July, all the eyes of the world will be on the World Cup held in Russia this time. Games will be held at 12 different arenas in 11 Russian cities. The biggest one of the arenas – the Luzhniki – will host the tournament opener, Russia vs Saudi Arabia, as well as the final.
The World Cup 2018 mascot is Zabivaka, a wolf whose name translates as "the one who scores". Over one million Russian voters selected the mascot through online voting.
As the host nation, Russia bypassed the qualification, in which some 210 national teams competed in 872 games scoring a total of 2,454 goals. Therefore, 32 teams made it to the final tournament.
In South America, Brazil won the qualification with no significant trouble – they finished 10 points above Luis Suarez-led Uruguay. Argentina barely made it – only thanks to a hat-trick from Lionel Messi in their last game against Colombia. Lastly, Peru qualified as the fourth seed, beating New Zealand in a playoff.
Australia, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Korea qualified from Asia. After two group stages, Australia beat Syria and Honduras in playoffs. Aussie Daniel Arzani is the tournament's youngest footballer at 19 years old.
From North and Central America, Mexico was victorious in the continental qualification. The United States will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986, whereas Panama and Costa Rica will be present in Russia.
In the African qualification, Egypt with the tournament's oldest player, Essam El-Hadary at 45, made it through to the first World Cup since 1990. Also, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia will compete this summer.
The Italian national football team will be missed at the World Cup for the first time since 1958. The Netherlands will not play in Russia either. Instead, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia and Spain were the first bunch to qualify in Europe. Croatia, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland qualified through play-offs.
For 200 out of the 736 footballers that will play in Russia, this will not be the first World Cup. 53 of them have scored at least once before.
The world's two best players will both be there. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had to wait until their final qualifying games, but both countries avoided disaster and booked their spot in the tournament.