The 2018 FIFA World Cup was the 21st FIFA World Cup, an international football tournament contested by the men's national teams of the member associations of FIFA once every four years. It took place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018. It was the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe, and the 11th time that it had been held in Europe. At an estimated cost of over $14.2 billion, it was the most expensive World Cup. It was also the first World Cup to use the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
The finals involved 32 teams, of which 31 came through qualifying competitions, while the host nation qualified automatically. Of the 32 teams, 20 had also appeared in the previous tournament in 2014, while both Iceland and Panama made their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup. A total of 64 matches were played in 12 venues across 11 cities.
The 100-ruble commemorative banknote celebrates the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It features an image of Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.
The bidding procedure to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments began in January 2009, and national associations had until 2 February 2009 to register their interest. Initially, nine countries placed bids for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but Mexico later withdrew from proceedings, and Indonesia's bid was rejected by FIFA in February 2010 after the Indonesian government failed to submit a letter to support the bid. During the bidding process, the three remaining non-UEFA nations (Australia, Japan, and the United States) gradually withdrew from the 2018 bids, and the UEFA nations were thus ruled out of the 2022 bid. As such, there were eventually four bids for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, two of which were joint bids: England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium, and Portugal/Spain.
The 22-member FIFA Executive Committee convened in Zürich on 2 December 2010 to vote to select the hosts of both tournaments. Russia won the right to be the 2018 host in the second round of voting. The Portugal/Spain bid came second, and that from Belgium/Netherlands third. England, which was bidding to host its second tournament, was eliminated in the first round.
The English Football Association and others raised concerns of bribery on the part of the Russian team and corruption from FIFA members. They claimed that four members of the executive committee had requested bribes to vote for England, and Sepp Blatter had said that it had already been arranged before the vote that Russia would win. The 2014 Garcia Report, an internal investigation led by Michael J. Garcia, was withheld from public release by Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA's head of adjudication on ethical matters. Eckert instead released a shorter revised summary, and his (and therefore FIFA's) reluctance to publish the full report caused Garcia to resign in protest. Because of the controversy, the FA refused to accept Eckert's absolving of Russia from blame, with Greg Dyke calling for a re-examination of the affair and David Bernstein calling for a boycott of the World Cup.
For the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup, all eligible nations – the 209 FIFA member associations minus automatically qualified hosts Russia – applied to enter the qualifying process.Zimbabwe and Indonesia were later disqualified before playing their first matches, while Gibraltar and Kosovo, who joined FIFA on 13 May 2016 after the qualifying draw but before European qualifying had begun, also entered the competition. Places in the tournament were allocated to continental confederations, with the allocation unchanged from the 2014 World Cup. The first qualification game, between Timor-Leste and Mongolia, began in Dili on 12 March 2015 as part of the AFC's qualification, and the main qualifying draw took place at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, on 25 July 2015.
Of the 32 nations qualified to play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 20 countries competed at the previous tournament in 2014. Both Iceland and Panama qualified for the first time, with the former becoming the smallest country in terms of population to reach the World Cup. Other teams returning after absences of at least three tournaments include: Egypt, returning to the finals after their last appearance in 1990; Morocco, who last competed in 1998; Peru, returning after 1982; and Senegal, competing for the second time after reaching the quarter-finals in 2002. It is the first time three Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland and Sweden) and four Arab nations (Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) have qualified for the World Cup.
Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro in Moscow at the 2018 World Cup draw
The draw was held on 1 December 2017 at 18:00 MSK at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow. The 32 teams were drawn into 8 groups of 4, by selecting one team from each of the 4 ranked pots.
For the draw, the teams were allocated to four pots based on the FIFA World Rankings of October 2017. Pot 1 contained the hosts Russia (who were automatically assigned to position A1) and the best seven teams, pot 2 contained the next best eight teams, and so on for pots 3 and 4. This was different from previous draws, when only pot 1 was based on FIFA rankings while the remaining pots were based on geographical considerations. However, teams from the same confederation still were not drawn against each other for the group stage, except that two UEFA teams could be in each group.
Initially, each team had to name a preliminary squad of 30 players but, in February 2018, this was increased to 35. From the preliminary squad, the team had to name a final squad of 23 players (three of whom must be goalkeepers) by 4 June. Players in the final squad may be replaced for serious injury up to 24 hours prior to kickoff of the team's first match and such replacements do not need to have been named in the preliminary squad.
For players named in the 35-player preliminary squad, there was a mandatory rest period between 21 and 27 May 2018, except for those involved in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final played on 26 May.
On 29 March 2018, FIFA released the list of 36 referees and 63 assistant referees selected to oversee matches. On 30 April 2018, FIFA released the list of 13 video assistant referees, who solely acted in this capacity in the tournament.
Referee Fahad Al-Mirdasi of Saudi Arabia was removed in 30 May 2018 over a match-fixing attempt, along with his two assistant referees, compatriots Mohammed Al-Abakry and Abdulah Al-Shalwai. A new referee was not appointed, but two assistant referees, Hasan Al Mahri of the United Arab Emirates and Hiroshi Yamauchi of Japan, were added to the list. Assistant referee Marwa Range of Kenya also withdrew after the BBC released an investigation conducted by a Ghanaian journalist which implicated Marwa in a bribery scandal.
VAR operations for all games are operating from a single headquarters in Moscow, which receives live video of the games and are in radio contact with the on-field referees. Systems are in place for communicating VAR-related information to broadcasters and visuals on stadiums' large screens are used for the fans in attendance.
VAR had a significant impact in several games. On 15 June 2018, Diego Costa's goal against Portugal became the first World Cup goal based on a VAR decision; the first penalty as a result of a VAR decision was awarded to France in their match against Australia on 16 June and resulted in a goal by Antoine Griezmann. A record number of penalties were awarded in the tournament, with this phenomenon being partially attributed to VAR. Overall, the new technology has been both praised and criticised by commentators. FIFA declared the implementation of VAR a success after the first week of competition.
In October 2011, Russia decreased the number of stadiums from 16 to 14. Construction of the proposed Podolsk stadium in the Moscow region was cancelled by the regional government, and also in the capital, Otkrytiye Arena was competing with Dynamo Stadium over which would be constructed first.
The final choice of host cities was announced on 29 September 2012. The number of cities was further reduced to 11 and number of stadiums to 12 as Krasnodar and Yaroslavl were dropped from the final list. Of the 12 stadiums used for the tournament, 3 (Luzhniki, Yekaterinburg and Sochi) have been extensively renovated and the other 9 stadiums to be used are brand new; $11.8 billion has been spent on hosting the tournament.
Sepp Blatter stated in July 2014 that, given the concerns over the completion of venues in Russia, the number of venues for the tournament may be reduced from 12 to 10. He also said, "We are not going to be in a situation, as is the case of one, two or even three stadiums in South Africa, where it is a problem of what you do with these stadiums".
Reconstruction of the Yekaterinburg Central Stadium in January 2017
In October 2014, on their first official visit to Russia, FIFA's inspection committee and its head Chris Unger visited St Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan and both Moscow venues. They were satisfied with the progress.
On 8 October 2015, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee agreed on the official names of the stadiums used during the tournament.
Of the twelve venues used, the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and the Saint Petersburg Stadium – the two largest stadiums in Russia – were used most, both hosting seven matches. Sochi, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara all hosted six matches, including one quarter-final match each, while the Otkrytiye Stadium in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don hosted five matches, including one round-of-16 match each. Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Saransk all hosted four matches, but did not host any knockout stage games.
Exterior of Otkrytie Arena in Moscow
Twelve stadiums in eleven Russian cities were built and renovated for the FIFA World Cup.
Kaliningrad: Kaliningrad Stadium. The first piles were driven into the ground in September 2015. On 11 April 2018 the new stadium hosted its first match.
Kazan: Kazan Arena. The stadium was built for the 2013 Summer Universiade. It has since hosted the 2015 World Aquatics Championship and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The stadium serves as a home arena to FC Rubin Kazan.
Moscow: Luzhniki Stadium. The largest stadium in the country was closed for renovation in 2013. The stadium was commissioned in November 2017.
Moscow: Spartak Stadium. The stadium is a home arena to its namesake FC Spartak Moscow. In accordance with the FIFA requirements, during the 2018 World Cup it is called Spartak Stadium instead of its usual name Otkritie Arena. The stadium hosted its first match on 5 September 2014.
Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. The construction of the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium commenced in 2015. The project was completed in December 2017.
Rostov-on-Don: Rostov Arena. The stadium is located on the left bank of the Don River. The stadium construction was completed on 22 December 2017.
Saint Petersburg: Saint Petersburg Stadium. The construction of the stadium commenced in 2007. The project was officially completed on 29 December 2016. The stadium has hosted games of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and will serve as a venue for UEFA Euro 2020.
Samara: Samara Arena. The construction officially started on 21 July 2014. The project was completed on 21 April 2018.
Saransk: Mordovia Arena. The stadium in Saransk was scheduled to be commissioned in 2012 in time for the opening of the all-Russian Spartakiad, but the plan was revised. The opening was rescheduled to 2017. The arena hosted its first match on 21 April 2018.
Sochi: Fisht Stadium. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Afterwards, it was renovated in preparation for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2018 World Cup.
Volgograd: Volgograd Arena. The main arena of Volgograd was built on the demolished Central Stadium site, at the foot of the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex. The stadium was commissioned on 3 April 2018.
Yekaterinburg: Ekaterinburg Arena. The Central Stadium of Yekaterinburg has been renovated for the FIFA World Cup. The arena's stands have a capacity of 35,000 spectators. The renovation project was completed in December 2017.
At an estimated cost of over $14.2 billion as of June 2018[update], it is the most expensive World Cup in history, surpassing the cost of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Russian government had originally earmarked a budget of around $20 billion which was later slashed to $10 billion for the preparations of the World Cup, of which half is spent on transport infrastructure. As part of the program for preparation to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a federal sub-program "Construction and Renovation of Transport Infrastructure" was implemented with a total budget of 352.5 billion rubles, with 170.3 billion coming from the federal budget, 35.1 billion from regional budgets, and 147.1 billion from investors. The biggest item of federal spending was the aviation infrastructure (117.8 billion rubles). Construction of new hotels was a crucial area of infrastructure development in the World Cup host cities. Costs continued to balloon as preparations were underway.
Platov International Airport in Rostov-on-Don was upgraded with automated air traffic control systems, modern surveillance, navigation, communication, control, and meteorological support systems.Koltsovo Airport in Yekaterinburg was upgraded with radio-engineering tools for flight operation and received its second runway strip. Saransk Airport received a new navigation system; the city also got two new hotels, Mercure Saransk Centre (Accor Hotels) and Four Points by Sheraton Saransk (Starwood Hotels) as well as few other smaller accommodation facilities. In Samara, new tram lines were laid.Khrabrovo Airport in Kaliningrad was upgraded with radio navigation and weather equipment. Renovation and upgrade of radio-engineering tools for flight operation was completed in the airports of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Volgograd, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Kazan and Sochi. On 27 March, the Ministry of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector of Russia reported that all communications within its area of responsibility have been commissioned. The last facility commissioned was a waste treatment station in Volgograd. In Yekaterinburg, where four matches are hosted, hosting costs increased to over 7.4 billion rubles, over-running the 5.6 billion rubles originally allocated from the state and regional budget.
Volunteer flag bearers on the field prior to Belgium's (flag depicted) group stage match against Tunisia
Volunteer applications to the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee opened on 1 June 2016. The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Volunteer Program received about 177,000 applications, and engaged a total of 35,000 volunteers. They received training at 15 Volunteer Centres of the Local Organising Committee based in 15 universities, and in Volunteer Centres in the host cities. Preference, especially in the key areas, was given to those with knowledge of foreign languages and volunteering experience, but not necessarily to Russian nationals.
Free public transport services were offered for ticketholders during the World Cup, including additional trains linking between host cities, as well as services such as bus service within them.
Launching of a 1,000 days countdown in Moscow
The full schedule was announced by FIFA on 24 July 2015 (without kick-off times, which were confirmed later). On 1 December 2017, following the final draw, six kick-off times were adjusted by FIFA.
Russia was placed in position A1 in the group stage and played in the opening match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 14 June against Saudi Arabia, the two lowest-ranked teams of the tournament at the time of the final draw. The Luzhniki Stadium also hosted the second semi-final on 11 July and the final on 15 July. The Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg hosted the first semi-final on 10 July and the third place play-off on 14 July.
At the start of the ceremony, Russian president Vladimir Putin gave a speech, welcoming the countries of the world to Russia and calling football a uniting force. Brazilian World Cup-winning striker Ronaldo entered the stadium with a child in a Russia shirt. Pop singer Robbie Williams then sang two of his songs solo before he and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina performed a duet. Dancers dressed in the flags of the 32 competing teams appeared carrying a sign with the name of each nation. At the end of the ceremony Ronaldo reappeared with the official match ball which had returned from the International Space Station in early June.
Competing countries were divided into eight groups of four teams (groups A to H). Teams in each group played one another in a round-robin basis, with the top two teams of each group advancing to the knockout stage. Ten European teams and four South American teams progressed to the knockout stage, together with Japan and Mexico.
For the first time since 1938, Germany (reigning champions) did not advance past the first round. For the first time since 1982, no African team progressed to the second round. For the first time, the fair play criteria came into use, when Japan qualified over Senegal due to having received fewer yellow cards. Only one match, France v Denmark, was goalless. Until then there were a record 36 straight games in which at least one goal was scored.
In the knockout stages, if a match is level at the end of normal playing time, extra time is played (two periods of 15 minutes each) and followed, if necessary, by a penalty shoot-out to determine the winners.
If a match went into extra time, each team was allowed to make a fourth substitution, the first time this had been allowed in a FIFA World Cup tournament.