Domestic football leagues around Europe are beginning to wrap up. That means all eyes are turning toward the Champions League semis, but also that we’re inching closer and closer to the World Cup. If you can believe it, we’re only about two months away as of the time of this writing!
If you’re a big football fan or your own country is competing, you’ve likely already begun to narrow your focus to a few key matches or scenarios. More broadly though, these are some things to look into ahead of the action, so that you’ll enjoy the Cup itself even more.
1 – Recent History
Hardcore football fans tend to remember previous World Cups fairly clearly. But more casual fans may already have forgotten certain details about even the most recent Cup, such as that Germany beat Brazil 7-1, or that Ecuador forced a draw with 2018 favorite France. The Guardian has a lovely match-by-match review of the 2014 Cup that can serve as a handy reminder and possibly an indication of drama to come between rivals.
2 – The Host Cities & Stadiums
Some would undoubtedly prefer to focus solely on the football, but as with the Olympics there’s something fun about getting to know the host nation for the World Cup. Russia is a place a lot of us don’t understand beyond images of Moscow and St. Petersburg and the occasional international news story. So one thing to learn about before the Cup is the selection of host cities and the stadiums that are being built and renovated for the event. These are things that are often discussed online and in broadcasts, and they add a great deal of character to the tournament.
3 – The Betting Favorites
Betting on the World Cup is big business in much of the world. As one platform describes it, sports betting in general is a means of maximizing enjoyment and profit from some of the greatest and most exciting events in the world – and the World Cup is pretty much at the top of that list. Accordingly, odds tend to be firmly established for who will win the Cup, who will advance from each group, etc., such that even if you aren’t much for betting there’s a lot of interesting information to dissect. In this case, France, Germany, Brazil and Spain tend to be listed at the top.
4 – The Young Stars
Star power is a big deal at the World Cup, and at this point we’re all expecting some heroics from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The secret’s even out on Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who will be in action for Egypt. But it’s always fun to watch out for rising stars at the Cup as well, given that a strong match or two on this stage can set up a career of glory. Keep an eye on France’s Kylian Mbappe, Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus, and Spain’s Marco Asensio among others.
5 – The Best Group Stage Matches
True football fanatics will be tuning in for as much of the tournament as they can spare the time for. But if you’re looking for some highlights it pays to think about the best-looking group stage matches in advance. It’s a subjective exercise to some degree, but most would agree that matches like Croatia vs. Nigeria (June 16), Switzerland vs. Costa Rica (June 17), Portugal vs. Spain (June 20), and England vs. Belgium (June 28) offer the potential for some early excitement.