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Everything you need to know about the World Cup

SB Nation logoSB Nation 13/06/2018 SB Nation Soccer Staff

a man standing in front of a building © Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images Has it been an agonizing four years waiting for the World Cup to return? Well, your wait is finally over. The 2018 World Cup kicks off from Russia on Thursday, June 14, and will pump nonstop soccer into your eyeballs for the next month.

There’s just one game on the opening day, but the group stage gets jam-packed after that. From day two until June 28, there will be at least three games every single day, culminating in the final set of group stage games getting played side-by-side over the last four days of that stretch.

Reigning World Cup champions Germany have returned with a strong squad, as have European champions Portugal. Incredibly, South American champs Chile won’t be here, and neither will the United States, Italy, or the Netherlands. That’s evidence that FIFA’s middle-tier of sides are getting stronger, so get ready for a slew of upsets during this World Cup.

The format

The 32 qualifying teams have been separated into eight groups of four teams each. Here’s how that process worked.

Two teams will advance from each group, while the bottom two teams will be eliminated. Every team plays the other teams in their group one time, for three group stage matches apiece. Teams are given three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. The two teams with the most points advance. Goal differential is the first tiebreaker, followed by goals scored, and then head-to-head results.

After the group stage, the 16 remaining teams go into a knockout bracket. The winner of Group A plays the runner-up from Group B, the winner of Group B plays the runner-up from Group A, and so on. There a set bracket — no re-seeding. Group stage games can end in ties, but knockout stage games will go to extra time, then penalty kicks if necessary.

How to watch the World Cup

Games will be broadcast in English on FOX and FS1, while the Spanish broadcast will usually be on Telemundo, and occasionally on other NBC networks. You can find the listings for each day, including listings for other countries, on Live Soccer TV.

All of the games will be streamed online in the United States as well. You can watch for free on Fox Sports Go or Telemundo Deportes en vivo if you log in with your TV provider. Games will also be available on subscription services like Fubo and Hulu.

The favorites

According to pre-tournament odds, Brazil is the favorite to win the tournament. They breezed through South American qualifying and have won their last four warm-up friendly matches convincingly. They’re followed by Germany, then Spain, France and Argentina. However, many expect Spain’s chances to drop after they dramatically fired their coach just before the tournament for announcing what his next job would be without consulting with his current employers.

Players to watch

Neymar — Brazil’s superstar just returned from injury and looked like he was back to his best during warmup games. He was injured for Brazil’s famous 7-1 loss to Germany during the last World Cup, and he’ll want revenge this time around.

Cristiano Ronaldo — Even at 33 years old, with over 900 pro games on his legs, Ronaldo is still one of the best in the world. This is almost certainly his last chance to win a World Cup with Portugal.

Lionel Messi — Considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, but his Argentina team is in shambles. It barely qualified for the World Cup, and the Albiceleste defense is extremely suspect. Messi will need to be at his absolute best for Argentina to have a chance.

Mohamed Salah — Possibly the heir to Messi and Ronaldo’s throne, Salah dominated the Premier League with Liverpool this season. He’ll be playing through a shoulder injury while trying to lead Egypt to glory.

Paul Pogba — France’s superstar midfielder is known as much for his hairstyles as his play, though that’s only because he’s been a touch out of form lately. If France can figure out how to best utilize him, they have a chance to win the tournament.

Harry Kane — England’s center forward was in a tight golden boot race for Salah in the Premier League most of the season. The Three Lions’ success or failure is likely to be pinned on his ability or inability to score goals.

If you’re looking for some more under-the-radar players to keep an eye on, we have 10 of those for you.

2018 World Cup schedule, standings and bracket

All times are ET.

Group A

Russia — 0 points

Saudi Arabia — 0 points

Egypt — 0 points

Uruguay — 0 points

Russia vs. Saudi Arabia — Thursday, June 14, 11 a.m.

Egypt vs. Uruguay — Friday, June 15, 8 a.m.

Russia vs. Egypt — Tuesday, June 19, 2 p.m.

Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia — Wednesday, June 20, 11 a.m.

Uruguay vs. Russia — Monday, June 25, 10 a.m.

Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt — Monday, June 25, 10 a.m. 

Group B

Portugal — 0 points

Spain — 0 points

Morocco — 0 points

Iran — 0 points

Morocco vs. Iran — Friday, June 15, 11 a.m.

Portugal vs. Spain — Friday, June 15, 2 p.m.

Portugal vs. Morocco — Wednesday, June 20, 8 a.m.

Iran vs. Spain — Wednesday, June 20, 2 p.m.

Spain vs. Morocco — Monday, June 25, 2 p.m.

Iran vs. Portugal — Monday, June 25, 2 p.m.

Group C

France — 0 points

Australia — 0 points

Peru — 0 points

Denmark — 0 points

France vs. Australia — Saturday, June 16, 6 a.m.

Peru vs. Denmark — Saturday, June 16, 12 p.m.

Denmark vs. Australia — Thursday, June 21, 8 a.m.

France vs. Peru — Thursday, June 21, 11 a.m.

Australia vs. Peru — Tuesday, June 26, 10 a.m.

Denmark vs. France — Tuesday, June 26, 10 a.m.

Group D

Argentina — 0 points

Iceland — 0 points

Croatia — 0 points

Nigeria — 0 points

Argentina vs. Iceland — Saturday, June 16, 9 a.m.

Croatia vs. Nigeria — Saturday, June 16, 3 p.m.

Argentina vs. Croatia — Thursday, June 21, 2 p.m.

Nigeria vs. Iceland — Friday, June 22, 11 a.m.

Nigeria vs. Argentina — Tuesday, June 26, 2 p.m.

Iceland vs. Croatia — Tuesday, June 26, 2 p.m. 

Group E

Brazil — 0 points

Switzerland — 0 points

Costa Rica — 0 points

Serbia — 0 points

Costa Rica vs. Serbia — Sunday, June 17, 8 a.m.

Brazil vs. Switzerland — Sunday, June 17, 2 p.m.

Brazil vs. Costa Rica — Friday, June 22, 8 a.m.

Serbia vs. Switzerland — Friday, June 22, 2 p.m.

Serbia vs. Brazil — Wednesday, June 27, 2 p.m.

Switzerland vs. Costa Rica — Wednesday, June 27, 2 p.m.


Group F

Germany — 0 points

Mexico — 0 points

Sweden — 0 points

South Korea — 0 points

Germany vs. Mexico — Sunday, June 17, 11 a.m.

Sweden vs. South Korea — Monday, June 18, 8 a.m.

South Korea vs. Mexico — Saturday, June 23, 11 a.m.

Germany vs. Sweden — Saturday, June 23, 2 p.m.

South Korea vs. Germany — Wednesday, June 27, 10 a.m.

Mexico vs. Sweden — Wednesday, June 27, 10 a.m.

Group G

Belgium — 0 points

Panama — 0 points

Tunisia — 0 points

England — 0 points

Belgium vs. Panama — Monday, June 18, 11 a.m.

Tunisia vs. England — Monday, June 18, 2 p.m.

Belgium vs. Tunisia — Saturday, June 23, 8 a.m.

England vs. Panama — Sunday, June 24, 8 a.m.

Panama vs. Tunisia — Thursday, June 28, 2 p.m.

England vs. Belgium — Thursday, June 28, 2 p.m.

Group H

Poland — 0 points

Senegal — 0 points

Colombia — 0 points

Japan — 0 points

Colombia vs. Japan — Tuesday, June 19, 8 a.m.

Poland vs. Senegal — Tuesday, June 19, 11 a.m.

Japan vs. Senegal — Sunday, June 24, 11 a.m.

Poland vs. Colombia — Sunday, June 24, 2 p.m.

Japan vs. Poland — Thursday, June 28, 10 a.m.

Senegal vs. Colombia — Thursday, June 28, 10 a.m.

Round of 16

Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up — Saturday, June 30, 10 a.m.

Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up — Saturday, June 30, 2 p.m.

Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up — Sunday, July 1, 10 a.m.

Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up — Sunday, July 1, 2 p.m.

Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up — Monday, July 2, 10 a.m.

Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up — Monday, July 2, 2 p.m.

Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up — Tuesday, July 3, 10 a.m.

Group H winner vs. Group G runner up — Tuesday, July 3, 2 p.m.

Quarterfinals

QF1 vs. QF2 — Friday, July 6, 10 a.m.

QF3 vs. QF4 — Friday, July 6, 2 p.m.

QF5 vs. QF6 — Saturday, July 7, 10 a.m.

QF7 vs. QF8 — Saturday, July 7, 2 p.m.

Semifinals

SF1 vs. SF2 — Tuesday, July 10, 2 p.m.

SF3 vs. SF4 — Wednesday, July 11, 2 p.m.

Third place match

F3 vs. F4 — Saturday, July 14, 10 a.m.

Final

F1 vs. F2 — Sunday, July 15, 11 a.m. 

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