Countdown to the 2018 FIFA World CupJake Cooper | 09 Mar 2018
On the 9th of March the 100-day countdown to the highly anticipated 2018 Russia Soccer World Cup gets underway. Football fans, punters and patriots all around the world are preparing themselves for one the greatest sporting events on earth. While the host nation celebrates the impending arrival of tens of thousands of visitors, the road to 2018 has been bumpy to say the least. It was just six months ago that Russia came under the spotlight for having just 5 out of the 12 official stadiums ready for action. They have also been embroiled in Olympic doping scandals and suspicions of bribery since being drawn as the host nation for the auspicious tournament.
Whatever reservations lingered in 2017 seem to have dissipated now, as everything has pretty much fallen into place. All 12 stadiums have been completed and standing proudly where once just scaffolding and dirt were present. Such is the draw of the Soccer World Cup that fans all over the world have forgotten their grievances with the dodgy selection process and all focus is now firmly on the tournament and what will happen when the football teams take to the field.
With such controversy surrounding the event, we can be forgiven for thinking that ticket sales would be slow, at least at the start. This it seems, was not the case. Since the opening of ticket sales, millions of tickets have been reserved or bought, leading to the strategic deployment of staggered ticket sales. 2018 World Cup tickets have been split into three sales phases or sections. The first sales phase opened on the 14th of September 2017. This was the first of the random selection draw where fans could reserve a ticket. A random number draw then determined which of the tickets get awarded.
This was followed soon after by a limited release (first come-first serve) of standard ticket sales that opened on the 16th of November. The second sales phase commenced on the 5th of December with a random selection then limited release. We are just days away from the 3rd phase with a random selection and limited release. Finally, on the 18th of April, the last-minute sales phase will commence. All the remaining tickets will be slotted into this phase and sold on a first come, first serve basis.
If the speed of the ticket sales is anything to go by, the World Cup is shaping up to be one of the most exciting to date. There are a few major talking points to clear up before the hosts take on Saudi Arabia in the opening game. The fitness of Neymar is still in question. After sustaining an injury, the Brazilian will reportedly be ready for his opening game after 3 months in recovery. The Brazilian team meanwhile breezed through their CONMEBOL qualifying campaign and are in good shape to make amends for their poor performance in 2014.
How the Teams Stack Up
African teams are also on the radar for 2018. With Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Nigeria all having the strongest sides in recent memory, it may be that we see an African side in the finals or at least the semi-finals. The great Messi vs. Ronaldo debate will come into sharp focus as the teams compete on a global stage. While the Argentinians barely qualified for the World Cup, Portugal are not pipped as favourites either despite winning the 2016 European Championship.
According to the latest odds, the bookmakers have Germany and Brazil as joint favourites at odds of 5/1. France is third highest at odds of 11/2, while Spain is fourth highest, and Argentina in Fifth. Portugal are outliers and take the 8th spot at odds of 24/1, while the hosts have been given odds of 32/1 to win on home soil.