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Jun 14-Jul 15, 2018: 21st FIFA World Cup brings global football stars to Russian cities

RUSSIA - The quadrennial FIFA World Cup sees 31 national teams eager to deny four-times Cup winner Germany the 2018 trophy. The 2018 tournament opens and closes in Moscow.

Germany goes into the tournament high on its 2017 Confederations Cup win. That contest is widely described as a proving ground for the World Cup, the most watched sporting event in the world.

To decide the 2018 winner, 32 national teams will play 64 games at 12 venues in 11 Russian cities. The qualifying tournaments began in Sep 2016 and ran through Nov 2017.

Argentina, runner-up to Germany in 2014 and World Cup holder in 1978 and 1986, qualified after a struggle. Argentina was also runner-up in 1930 and 1990.

Argentina’s historic football rival Brazil, which has won the coveted Cup five times, also made it through qualifying and sees new team boss Tite as the ticket to its success in 2018.

An historic regional rival of both countries, Mexico, sees itself poised for its first World Cup victory after a stellar run through the qualifying rounds.

Notable new challengers for the champion in 2018 include Saudi Arabia, which returns to the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

Russia qualified automatically because it is the host. The full list of countries taking part, grouped by regional association, is: Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia; Australia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia; Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland; Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama; Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay.

Notable teams who failed to qualify include the United States. Algeria, which had previously qualified for four World Cups and almost eliminated Germany from the 2014 competition in Round 16, also failed to qualify. And in perhaps the biggest shock, Italy, winner of four Cup titles, will also be missing from the 2018 line-up.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), football’s governing body, runs the tournament.

#22302 Updated: 12/06/2017 UPDATED DECEMBER FOLLOWING CONCLUSION OF QUALIFYING MATCHES

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