The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on 14th June in Russia. If you have no idea what the beautiful game is all about, it’s time to brush up on some football facts
Football, the beautiful game, the most popular sport in the world.
Proving its global appeal, in 2014 the FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina was watched by 1.1 billion people around the world. That’s ten times the number of people who watched Super Bowl LII earlier this year.
Football is a global game and here in the UAE, whether you’re a huge fan or have no idea how the sport works, you’re unlikely to get through the next couple of months without hearing about the tournament.
Want to get in on the action? Here’s a bit on the basics of football and what can you expect from the FIFA World Cup 2018.
How does it work?
If you know nothing about the sport, then let’s start with the basics.
Football is a game played by two teams of eleven players, with each team having the ability to use three substitutes during the match.
A match is made up of two 45 minute halves, however in knockout tournaments and cups, like the FIFA World Cup, 30 minutes of extra time and penalties may be required to determine an outright winner.
Players cannot use their hands to control the ball but are able to use any other part of their body, while goalkeepers can handle the ball, provided it’s in their own box.
The referee is helped by assistants, including linesmen who determine if the ball has gone out of play and apply the offside rule (more on that later). Meanwhile, assistant referees are on the touchline and sometimes behind each of the goals.
A goal is scored when the whole ball has crossed the line. Nowadays, as technology has advanced, the referee is able to use Hawk-Eye tech like that used in tennis, which alerts his wristwatch to determine if a ball has crossed the line, eliminating doubt and debate from the game.
The offside rule
The offside rule has become infamous for its perceived complication, but it’s
not really that difficult to get your head around.
A player is deemed offside if he is positioned between the last defender and the goalkeeper of the opposing side when the ball is passed to him. So, attackers have to stay in line or behind the last defender of the opposing side to stay onside. See, it’s really not that complicated.
The World Cup
Each team, except for the host nation, which is Russia this year, has to qualify through the group stages, which are contested in each continent, with the winners and some runners-up going into the pot for the 32-team competition.
This year, established footballing nations such as the Netherlands, Italy, Chile and the United States are among those who didn’t qualify, but there are plenty of countries to be excited about this year.
Each team in the group will play one another and the teams that finish in first and second position in the group stage will progress to the first knockout round, known as the last 16.
In the group stage of competition, three points are awarded to a team that wins, a single point is given to each team for a draw and zero points are gained for a loss.
In the knockout round, points are not allocated and losing teams are instead eliminated from the competition altogether.
From the last 16, the winners will progress to the quarter finals, the semi-finals and then the final. A third-place playoff between the two losing semi-finalists will also take place.
This year’s reigning champions are Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in 2014. Host nation Russia will kick off the tournament with a match against Saudi Arabia on 14th June.
The World Cup’s most memorable moments
A helping hand
Despite scoring an incredible goal a few minutes later, Diego Maradona and the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England will be remembered for only one thing. Dubbed the ‘hand of god’, Maradona punched the ball into the back of the net early into the second half to put Argentina a goal up against England. Despite protests from the England players, the infringement wasn’t spotted and six minutes later Maradona scored again with a sublime piece of skill that put the nail in the coffin for England, eliminating them from the tournament and cementing the game in football history.
The 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France will be remembered for a number of reasons, but mostly as Zinedine Zidane’s final game in the sport. Despite scoring a penalty in the final and being named the player of the tournament, Zizou (as he’s affectionately known) left the sport in disgrace after being sent off in the 110th minute for head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the chest. Italy went on to win the tournament on penalties, to add insult to injury for French fans around the world.
The Suárez bite
Uruguay’s Luis Suárez has had more than his fair share of controversial moments in football but none more shocking than his altercation with Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Despite having being found guilty of doing so twice in the past and being banned while at Liverpool for the same offence, Suárez inexplicably bit the Italian defender on the arm. Suárez was subsequently banned for nine international matches, and from the sport as a whole for four months as well as being fined 100,000 Swiss francs (AED 367,000). He returned to the game on 25th October 2015, with a debut for Barcelona.
Germany 7 – Brazil 1
It was a result that sent shockwaves around the world. FIFA World Cup 2014 hosts and footballing icons Brazil were humbled, then embarrassed, by a rampant German side. Brazil, which was under huge pressure to win the tournament on home soil, found themselves 5-0 down at half time, with four of the German goals scored within a six-minute blitz. By the time the seventh goal for Germany went in, even the home fans started to applaud the Germans, who went on to win the tournament. Brazil scored a conciliation goal in the 90th minute but the result was considered a national embarrassment and became a record defeat for the South American nation.
WORDS Colin Armstrong