Moscow, Russia : The final draw for the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup took place today, Friday, December 1st, at the State Kremlin Palace, in the Russian capital, Moscow. Hosts Russia will meet Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup on June 14 in Moscow. Reigning champions Germany will open their World Cup defence against Mexico in Moscow on June 17.
Ahead of the draw, Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the stage along with FIFA President Gianni Infantino for opening remarks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a powerful, emotional speech: “I hope this World Cup will be the main factor in this beloved sport’s development in our country…we await you in 2018”. Russia will do everything it can to make the World Cup a grandiose sports festival, Putin added.
FIFA chief Gianni Infantino finished delivering his ownopening remarks, and the pre-draw ceremony was underway, starting with some footage of different Russian regions, before singer Alsu belted out a pop tune.
The audience was treated to a performance of a traditional Russian dance, accompanied by some good old-fashioned folk music.
The official hosts for the draw ceremony, former England striker Gary Lineker and Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya, were assisted by eight former footballers who were chosen to represent the host nation and seven World Cup-winning teams.
Laurent Blanc (France), Gordon Banks (England), Cafu (Brazil), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Carles Puyol (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay) and Diego Maradona (Argentina) represented seven of the nations to have won the tournament and Nikita Simonyan represented Russia.
Before the final draw, the 32 qualified teams were already pooled into four pots based on their current FIFA rankings, with Russia, as the host country, heading the A group.
Eight groups were drawn in total, from A-H.
Each group contains one team from each pot, and no team was drawn alongside another team from the same pot.
No teams from the same confederation, with the exception of UEFA, were allowed to be drawn in the same group.
A maximum of two European countries was allowed to be drawn in any group.
Russia will host its first FIFA World Cup on June 14 — July 15, 2018. The games will take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg and Sochi.
“We have an ambitious aim, we want to hold the best world championship ever. I think that FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia will be the best in history. Football is a magic, it can change a lot. I think that football can make people look on their country, other countries and people from a different angle,” FIFA President Giovanni Vincenzo “Gianni” Infantino told journalists before the final draw event today.
The first World Cup was held in 1930 in Uruguay, since then there have been 20 editions of the tournament.
Hosts Uruguay won the first ever event in 1930.
Eight nations in total have won the World Cup: Brazil – 5 times, Germany – 4 times , Italy – 4 times , Uruguay – Twice, Argentina – Twice, England – Once, France – Once and Spain – Once.
Brazil – 5 times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Germany – 4 times, including as West Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
Italy – 4 times (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Uruguay – Twice (1930, 1950)
Argentina – Twice (1978, 1986)
England – Once (1966)
France – Once (1998)
Spain – Once (2010)
Only Brazil have participated at all 20 World Cup tournaments, although Germany and Italy have appeared at 18.
The top scorer at tournament finals is Germany’s Miroslav Klose, who netted 16 times at the Finals, followed by Brazil’s Ronaldo on 15 and German great Gerd Muller on 14.
Germany’s Lothar Matthaus has played the most games at finals – 25.
Brazil’s Cafu and Pele have appeared in the most finals – three – with both players victorious on two occasions.
Africa will be represented at the 2018 FIFA World Cup by Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria and Morocco. Notably, Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions Cameroon will miss the Russian showdown after failing to qualify from their group. The Indomitable Lions finished third after Nigeria and Zambia.