Your Definitive Guide to the 2018 World Cup

Photo by FIFA, Public Domain

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is almost upon us! Taking place in the host country of Russia this year, from the 14th of June to the 15th July, you can expect to eat, breathe and dream football! The official fixtures have been announced, and England have been placed in Group G with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. The good news is that England’s first three matches have been scheduled for evenings and weekends, so you can kick back and watch them without having to call in sick to the office!

Read on to discover everything you need to know about this summer’s most exciting sporting event.

The Groups

Thirty-two countries have made it to the finals of this year’s World Cup, and their teams have been organised into the following eight groups:

  • Group A – Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay
  • Group B – Iran, Morocco, Portugal, Spain
  • Group C – Australia, Denmark, France, Peru
  • Group D – Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
  • Group E – Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia, Switzerland
  • Group F – Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Sweden
  • Group G – Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia
  • Group H – Colombia, Japan, Poland, Senegal

Kick-Off Times for the Main Games

Each of the country teams in each of the groups will play three knockout games. This will decide which of the teams will be able to advance to the round of 16 and beyond. The key dates and times for these nail-biting matches are listed below (we’ve already converted the times to BST).

  • Match 50 (1C vs. 2D) will take place on Saturday, 30th June at 3 p.m. in Kazan
  • Match 49 (1A vs. 2B) will take place on Saturday, 30th June at 7 p.m. in Sochi
  • Match 51 (1B vs. 2A) will take place on Sunday, 1st July at 3 p.m. in Moscow
  • Match 52 (1D vs. 2C) will take place on Sunday, 1st July at 7 p.m. in Nizhny Novgorod
  • Match 53 (1E vs. 2F) will take place on Monday, 2nd July at 3 p.m. in Samara
  • Match 54 (1G vs. 2H) will take place on Monday, 2nd July at 7 p.m. in Rostov-on-Don
  • Match 55 (1F vs. 2E) will take place on Tuesday, 3rd July at 3 p.m. in St Petersburg
  • Match 56 (1H vs. 2G) will take place on Tuesday, 3rd July at 7 p.m. in Moscow (Otkirite Arena)

The quarter-finals, semi-finals and third-place play-off will commence on Friday, 6th July with the following schedule:

  • QF1 winner Match 49 vs. winner Match 50 on Friday, 6th July at 3 p.m. in Nizhny Novgorod
  • QF2 winner Match 53 vs. winner Match 54 on Friday, 6th July at 7 p.m. in Kazan
  • QF3 winner Match 55 vs. winner Match 56 on Saturday, 7th July at 3 p.m. in Samara
  • QF4 winner Match 51 vs. winner Match 52 on Saturday, 7th July at 7 p.m. in Sochi
  • SF1 winner QF1 vs. winner QF2 on Tuesday, 10th July at 7 p.m. in St Petersburg
  • SF 2 winner QF3 vs. winner QF4 on Wednesday, 11th July at 7 p.m. in Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium)

The third-place play-off between the losers of the two semi-finals will take place on Saturday, 14th July at 3 p.m. in St Petersburg. The 2018 FIFA World Cup final has been scheduled for Sunday, 15th July at 4 p.m. in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius, CC BY 2.0

England’s Matches

England will first face Tunisia on Monday, 18th June in Volgograd (kick-off at 7 p.m. BST), and the match will be available to watch on BBC1. The two teams have met only twice before during the entire history of the tournament, and their last meeting saw England triumph 2-0. Gareth Southgate’s squad will be hoping for a repeat victory.

Our home team are the favourites going into their second match against Panama on Sunday, 24th June at 1 p.m. in Nizhny Novgorod, which will also be televised on BBC1. However, Panama managed to beat 2014’s round-of-16 entrants — USA — to qualify for this year’s World Cup, so they shouldn’t be thought of as beaten just yet.

England’s final Group G game will take place in Kaliningrad on Thursday, 28th June at 7 p.m., and this match will be televised by ITV. Currently, Belgium are ranked globally in third place, so this is going to present quite the challenge for the English squad. Hopes and spirits will be high, though, because, throughout all their 15 previous encounters with England, they have only lost twice to the Belgian side.

Where it goes from there at this stage is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure that you’ll be able to watch all of England’s games if they progress to the round of 16 and beyond. Whether our boys make it to the final or not, both BBC1 and ITV will be broadcasting the match, which is due to air on Sunday, 15th July at 4 p.m. (BST). This is one to head to your favourite local watering hole to watch!

Odds and Predictions

If you want to take your support of the World Cup a bit further with an exciting wager or two, online sportsbooks are the place to stay up to date with current odds. Special promotions such as the BetStars’ 100 Million Challenge also offer an extra way to get involved with World Cup predictions.

Currently, Croatia, Mexico, Senegal and Morocco are four teams with the longest odds while the usual suspects of Brazil, Germany, France and Spain are the favourites. Germany and Brazil are both getting odds of 4/1, with France and Spain getting 6/1. Meanwhile, England are getting odds of 20/1 and are being shown support from the most unlikely of places. David Sumpter, the author of “Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game,” rather fancies their odds, stating that “they should have no trouble advancing through the group stage in Russia” thanks to the presence of “three of the English Premier League’s top five scorers” on the squad.

The Three Lions haven’t been able to move beyond the last 16 since 2006, four whole tournaments ago. They’ve got a lot to prove this year, too: In 2014, England came in last in the group, with just one point to their name after drawing 0-0 with Costa Rica. And let’s not forget the 2016 Euros when they fell rather spectacularly to the underdog Iceland squad during the round of 16. Whether they can redeem themselves this year on not, it’s worth bearing in mind that regarding games at least, a World Cup win is only seven matches away!

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