The World’s biggest sporting event, FIFA Football world cup, kicks off this evening with host Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in the opening clash. The 21st edition of the apex summit of football will feature 32 teams from five confederates and 64 high-octane matches to be played in 12 venues across 11 Russian cities.
The summers could not have been hotter this year in Russia. The heat will be felt not just across the Leningrad but even beyond the width and margins of the six continents.
Hosting soccer’s biggest tournament for the first time, 12 stadiums have been built and renovated in 11 Russian cities.
Billed as one of the most expensive football championship in the history, top 32 teams of the world will be crossing each other’s path to lay hands on the coveted FIFA gold trophy and a whopping 38 million USD prize booty.
Divided in 8 groups, the top two teams will advance to the knockout round of 16. In case of a tied rank between two teams at the group stage the tiebreakers will be determined by either a goal difference, or a fair play point, which will take into the account number of cards slapped on the player of a given team.
Each yellow card will create a deficit of 1 point, while a second yellow on the player will create a deficit of 3 points. And a red card will consume 4 points in case of the assessment for breaking a tie.
Like each edition of the mega event, this time too all eyes will be on a notorious ‘group of death’.
2-time Cup winner Argentina, 1996 Olympic winner and team which never fails to surprise Nigeria, 1998 third-place holders Crotia and a talented Iceland is locked in Group D.
In Group F, 4 times cup winner Germany will be locking with the flair of Mexicans, finesse of Sweden and surprise of South Korea. Die Mannschaft will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil in 1962.
A win by Joachin Low’s boys would also level them with Brazil with five World Cups wins.
Eyes will also be on the Group B, which features Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain besides Morocco and Iran.
Placed in Group E, Brazil will be looking to comeback strongly after a 1-7 drubbing on home soil by the Germans in their last World Cup game four years ago.
The high-octane title summit, though, will be missing Italy, a powerhouse with four titles in the past, who ironically failed to cross past the qualifiers. The failure of Italy to qualify also pulled the curtains on the illustrious reign of Azzuri’s legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon.