CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- From June 14 to July 15, millions of people will watch the 2018 World Cup. Every week until the end of the competition, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs will provide information about this international soccer tournament. This week, for the first part of our series, discover things you maybe don't know about the event.
1. It happens every four years.
The World Cup has a massive audience. This is the biggest and most-watched sporting event in the world. Next week, more than three billion of people around the world will follow the 64 matches of football's greatest tournament.
Since 1930, the competition has been played every four years, except in 1942 and 1946, because of World War II. Four years may seem like a lengthy span of time, but organizing a World Cup requires a lot of planning and preparation for the host nation.
As World Cup excitement grows, many people prepare to follow matches on big screens with their friends or families. Soccer is one the most popular sports in many countries, in Belgium and Germany for instance. In many places, people talk about soccer and the national team for months, trying to find who will win the competition.
Sometimes, soccer can cause strong emotions. In Belgium, many fans are angry because the coach didn't select Radja Nainggolan, a very popular player.
2.There are 12 stadiums across 11 cities in Russia.
After South Africa in 2010 and Brazil four years ago, Russia will host the 2018 World Cup. England, Spain-Portugal and the Netherlands-Belgium also lobbied to host the event. The tournament will be spread across the huge country of Russia. There will be 12 stadiums across 11 cities. The biggest stadium will be the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The other venues are the Kaliningrad Stadium, Volgograd Stadium, Fisht Stadium, Kazan Arena, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Samara Stadium, Rostov-on-Don Stadium, Spartak Stadium, Saint Petersburg Stadium and Saransk Stadium. Qatar will host the World Cup finals in 2022.
3. 32 teams will participate.
Thirty-two teams will participate in the World Cup. There will be Russia, the host team, and 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions. Iceland and Panama will compete for the first time. Germany won the competition four years ago, and is one of the two biggest favorites along with Brazil. Other favorites are Spain, France, Argentina, Belgium, and England. Outsiders include Portugal (European Champions 2016), Columbia, Nigeria, Croatia, and Uruguay.
What are Belgium's chances in the 2018 World Cup? The Red Devils have a 'Golden Generation' with big stars like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens, and more, but they lost two years ago during the European tournament.
4. The Netherlands and Italy will miss the event.
Belgium and Germany will go to Russia, the Netherlands will not. Despite being finalists in 2010 and bronze medalists in 2014, they had a very bad qualifying campaign. Italy ("Squadra Azzura"), four time champions, will also miss the tournament. The last time "Squadra Azzura" missed a World Cup was in 1958. The absence of both Italy and the Netherlands is considered the biggest loss for the 2018 World Cup.
The USA failed to qualify too, along with Ghana, Cameroun, Wales, Scotland, Austria, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Turkey, Norway, and more.
5. Don't miss the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony will start June 14 at 4:30 p.m. (Central European Time), before the first match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at 5 p.m. June 15, there will be a big game between Spain and Portugal at 8 p.m. Most of the time (except June 14, 25, 26, 27 and 28), there will be three matches per day at 2 p.m., 5 p.m., and 8 p.m. during the group stage, before the knockout stage.
Next week, we will tell you were you can see matches on big screens in the Benelux, inside and outside the gate.
The first match of Germany against Mexico will start Sunday at 5 p.m., and Belgium will play its first match Monday at 5 p.m. against Panama (all the kick-off times are in local time).