Like the Olympics, the World Cup happens every four years and holds a massive amount of national pride for millions across the globe. But for some of us, soccer (known as football outside of the United States) is just not our cup of tea. No worries–we have you covered. Read on to find all the basics for the tournament so you can throw in your two cents next time your boyfriend, dad or coworkers start declaring their winning predictions–and hey, who knows maybe you will find yourself cheering alongside them during the next game. Oh yeah, and sorry, the USA did not qualify so pick whoever you want to root for!
The 21st edition of the World Cup, hosted by Russia, began on June 14th. 32 teams qualified for the tournament out of the 210 who aimed to make the cup. The final will take place on July 15th as the last of 64 games played over 25 match days.
The tournament begins with eight groups of four teams. Each group plays a round-robin schedule, meaning all the teams in the group play one another. These games allow for no extra time and the winners earn three points, a draw (tie) earns both teams one point and the losers get no points. After all games of the first round have been played, the top two teams in each group advance to the 16-team knockout stage.
If a tie-breaker is needed in the first round, points obtained will be first considered, then goal differences in games, then the number of goals scored. Other considerations will be taken if the tie is not broken by the first three.
Once in the 16-team knockout stage, the teams are placed in a bracket and the tournament becomes single elimination–if you win, you continue and if you lose, you are out. These matches do have extra time for tie-breakers. After a full 90 minute match, the match goes into extra time, with two 15-minute halves. This extra time also includes “injury time” aka the time wasted when someone is writhing on the ground clutching their knee. If the match is still tied after this extra time, a penalty-kick shootout is played and whoever has the most goals advances.
Only the losers of the semifinals are the ones who continue playing–they will battle for the third round spot.
Each team is allowed 11 players on the pitch (field) at one time and each nation is allowed to bring up to 23 players to the tournament–three goalkeepers and 20 field players. The final roster is typically decided a month in advance but can be changed up to 24 hours before the team’s first match.
The World Cup winner is awarded $38 million and the runner-up gets $28 million. The 3rd and 4th place gets $24 million while all quarterfinalists get $16 million. All teams in the last 16 get $16 million and all qualifying teams received at least $8 million.
The first round teams and breakdown is as follows:
Germany (the 2014 victor)
Players To Watch
Here are some of the players that will be stirring up conversation–be sure to know who they are and why they are important.
Lionel Messi, Argentina
Messi has been named the best player in the world five times since 2008–however, he has never won the World Cup. In 2014 Messi nearly led Argentina to victory but lost the World Cup finals against Germany 1-0. Tough. Now 30 years old, Messi (known as La Pulga or “the flea” by his adoring fans due to his 5’7 slim frame) is looking at what could possibly be his last chance to cement his and his nation’s legacy on the world’s largest single-sport stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
You may know him for his rock-hard abs and 129 million Instagram followers (the third most in history) but Ronaldo also has some major soccer skills. Considered Messi’s ultimate rival, Ronaldo won the best player of the year award those five times since 2008 Messi did not. At 33, Ronaldo is looking at what will possibly be his final cup as Portugal hopes Ronaldo’s captivating footwork and famously fast feet will propel his team to victory.
Neymar Jr., Brazil
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (commonly known as Neymar–people might look at you funny if you use his whole name) is another insta-famous footie player with 94.6 million followers. Even though he is only 26, the soccer world is already buzzing with talk that Neymar may be better than both Messi and Ronaldo. Last year, he became the most valuable player in the world when Barcelona sold him to Paris-Saint Germain for around $262 million (OMG). However, last tournament Neymar and his Brazillian team lost 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup. Ouch. Let’s see if he can come back from that squashing.
Mo Salah, Egypt
Rising to greatness in 2017 with his speed, precise passing and focused scoring, Salah is viewed as Egypt’s main hope for success. However, salah injured his shoulder a few weeks before the tournament and may be missing a few games or might be off his peak-fitness. We will have our fingers crossed he can take the field at his usual level of greatness.
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium
An offensively-minded midfielder, De Bruyne is known for quarterbacking the attack and setting up beautiful goals. However, if he is not on his game, Belgium has little hope of advancing past the first round.
Son Heung-min, South Korea
Lovingly known as “Sonaldo” by his fans, this 25-year-old is considered one of the best players from Asia in a decade. He is the leading goal-scorer for South Korea and is known for his adorable smile. So. Cute.
Broadcasting and Streaming
The American rights to the World Cup are held by Fox (English) and Telemundo (Spanish). Fox will broadcast 38 of the 65 matches on FOX and the remaining will be shown on FS1. Telemundo will show 56 matches while the remaining will be shown on Universo.
Both Fox and Telemundo offer online streaming with an appropriate cable subscription.
The entire 2018 World Cup schedule can be found here.