The festival of football that only happens every four years is set to kick off in a matter of weeks.
That's right – the highly anticipated 2018 FIFA World Cup, a tournament that brings together the finest footballers on the planet – is almost upon us.
Not a paid up member of the football tribe? Fret not. Best in Travel has your back…
When is the World Cup?
The 2018 World Cup kicks off on 14 June when host nation Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in a Group A match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and runs until 15 July which is the day of the final.
Germany are the reigning champions after winning in Brazil in 2014. They beat Lionel Messi's Argentina in the final.
Where is the World Cup?
The tournament is being held in Russia, the largest country in the world that’s home to approximately 144.3 million people, for the very first time.
Russia was granted the license to host the FIFA World Cup on 2 December 2010. The FIFA matches will be played in 11 cities and 12 stadiums.The biggest stadium is the Luzhniki in Moscow, which will host the opening game and the final.
Why should I watch?
The World Cup is the biggest, most compelling event in the sporting world and if you don’t follow the competition, you’re letting the rest of the world go to the party without you. (The 2014 World Cup Final was watched live by over one billion people).
You’ll get to see of the greatest football players in the world work there magic and watch some intriguing storylines unfurl. Case in point? Barcelona ace Lionel Messi has not seen his national side, Argentina, win a World Cup in his entire lifetime (Argentina last lifted the coveted trophy in 1986 and have lost three straight major finals – two in the Copa America and the 2014 World Cup – in three years). Can the Barcelona talisman stop his country’s World Cup rot?
Which players will be in Russia?
The aforementioned Lionel Messi will be in Russia as will Portuguese superstar (and contender for the 2018 Ballon D’Or) Cristiano Ronaldo.
You can also look forward to seeing South American stars such as Luis Suarez and Neymar playing for Uruguay and Brazil while, from Europe, Premier League players Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata will be turning out for France and Spain respectively.
Other in-form players to watch out for are Egyptian sensation, Mohamed Salah, and England ace Harry Kane.
Nations have to name their chosen 23 men for the World Cup by 4 June 2018, 10 days before the tournament begins.
What are the groups?
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Who is the mascot?
The big question: who is the mascot for the FIFA 2018 World Cup? Best in Travel can reveal that Russia 2018's mascot is Zabivaka – a wolf who's name means 'the one who scores’. Zabivaka was chosen following a vote in Russia which saw one million people cast their votes!
Who are the referees?
The list of match referees and assistant referees was released by Fifa in March and I can be viewed here: http://resources.fifa.com/image/upload/list-of-match-officials-for-the-2018-fifa-world-cuptm.pdf?cloudid=ygppy1zdhjaxituykarn
There are 36 match referees in total and 63 assistant referees selected.
Is VAR being used?
It is. FIFA confirmed back in March that video assistant referees will be used in the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup. “It’s not possible that in 2018 everyone in their living room knows a few seconds after the play whether a referee has made a mistake and the referee doesn’t,” explained FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “We need to live with the times. We wanted to give the referees tools so they can make better decisions, and in the World Cup some very important decisions are made.”
What ball will be used at the 2018 World Cup?
The official 2018 Fifa World Cup ball is the Adidas Telstar . Designed to be a modern interpretation of the iconic 1970 Telstar ball, the ball only has six panels in an innovative design whereas the original Telstar had 32 panels fastened together.
Who are the kit providers?
Adidas: Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Spain and Sweden.
Nike: Australia, Brazil, Croatia, England, France, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
Puma: Senegal, Serbia, Switzerland, and Uruguay.
New Balance: Costa Rica and Panama.
How can I watch the World Cup?
If you haven’t yet scored tickets to the World Cup, look to the ‘last-minute’ sales phase which runs until 15 July 2018 (i.e the World Cup tournament final). These tickets will be implemented on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ticket prices range from £79 for a second-round group match up to £829 for the final. Russian residents will be eligible to obtain cheaper tickets with prices starting at £17.
All fans attending matches at the World Cup will need to apply for a FAN ID, a free official identity document required by the Russian authorities. The FAN ID includes benefits such as visa-free entry to the Russian Federation, as well as free use of public transport on match-days.
Can’t make it to Moscow?
UK audiences can watch World Cup matches on both the BBC and ITV. The first game, Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, will be aired on ITV while BBC's coverage begins the next day.
Online streams will be available to US audiences on fuboTV.
Let the countdown begin!