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2018 Russia World Cup was the 21st international men's football tournament organized by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and contested by 32 national teams, which took place in 11 cities across Russia from June 14th to July 15th, 2018. It was the first World Cup tournament ever to be hosted by a Eastern European nation.
On December 2nd, 2010, Russia was named as the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating the two joint bids by Portugal-Spain and Belgium-Netherlands in the second round of voting; England, the fourth European contender to host the games, was eliminated during the first round. Shortly after the announcement, Russia and the FIFA executive committee came under scrutiny for alleged solicitation of bribery and corruption from several European football associations, including the English Football Association, which in turn led to the launch of the Garcia Report. In September 2014, After a two-year investigation into the allegations, FIFA released a 42-page summary of the original report clearing Russia of any wrongdoing during the bidding process.
For the first time in the history of the World Cup, all 209 member nations of FIFA entered the qualifying rounds for the 2018 tournament, which took place from March 12th, 2015 to November 15th, 2018. The final 32 qualifying nations that participated in the tournament included two first-time contestants, Iceland and Panama, as well as three teams returning after absences of at least three tournaments, Egypt, Morocco and Senegal. Meanwhile, several teams that have made regular appearances at the previous tournaments failed to qualify for 2018, most notably Italy (for the first time since 1957) and The Netherlands (for the first time since 2002), as well as Cameroon, Chile, the United States and Ghana.
Teams were assigned to their groups on December 1st, 2017 inside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Each team was pulled from one of four pots, which were split based on world rankings, with the exception of host-nation Russia. The group stage lasted from June 14, 2018 until June 28, 2018. After the draw was completed, the competing teams were split up as follows:
The group stage showed several pre-tournament favorites struggling in their group and only one scoreless tie between France and Denmark. Host-nation Russia finished second in its group after defeating Saudi Arabia and Egypt in consecutive games. Uruguay defeated all opponents to take Group A. After Spain and Portugal drew 3-3 in their first match of group play, they needed 1-0 victories over Iran and Morocco to give themselves a chance to qualify in Group B. June 25, 2018 proved to be difficult for both Iberian teams as they were only able to draw with their opponents before moving on to the knockout phase. Group C featured France and Denmark moving past their competition despite facing stingy defenses from Peru and Australia. Argentina struggled to get itself into the knockout phase in Group D after tying its opening match to newcomer Iceland and losing to Croatia 3-0. Argentina was able to qualify due to group winners Croatia beating Iceland on the final day and some late game heroics of its own against Nigeria. In Group E Brazil and Switzerland moved on after tying the opening game with each other and having to overcome Serbia's early victory against Costa Rica. Group F featured the most surprises of the tournament. Mexico stunned Germany with a 1-0 victory in the opening game to take an early lead in the standings. The German team bounced back from its defeat and beat the Swedish team on a controversial goal in stoppage time 2-1. Mexico had beaten South Korea in its second match 2-1 nearly guaranteeing itself a position in the next round. On the June 27, 2018, Sweden came back from the brink of elimination to beat Mexico 3-0 and won the group. South Korea added to Germany's woes by defeating them 2-0 with goals in stoppage time. Group G saw dominating performances by Belgium and England over their opponents. These two were among the teams with the most goals scored in group play. Group H featured several upsets. Poland was eliminated from the group after dropping its first two games to Senegal and Colombia. It would avenge itself with a win over Japan in the final game. Colombia came back from an early defeat to Japan to win the group. At the end of three matches Japan and Senegal were tied on points, goal margin and goals scored. Ultimately, Senegal's team was eliminated due to more yellow card penalties against them than Japan.
The knockout stage was held from June 30th, 2018 to July 15th, 2018. Compared to the prior tournament, the teams advancing through the knockout stage were predominately from Europe (10 teams) and South America (4 teams). The only teams not from either region to qualify for the knockout phase were Mexico and Japan.
The opening round of the knockout bracket saw three of the eight matches go into penalty shots to determine the winner. Several tournament favorites such as Portugal, Argentina, Mexico and Spain also saw their bid for the championship end here. The quarterfinals saw heavyweights Brazil and Uruguay eliminated after losing to Belgium and France. Host-nation Russia was eliminated in this round after losing to Croatia in penalty kicks. For the fifth time in the World Cup's history, the semifinalists were all European teams. The semifinalists were England (3rd appearance), France (6th appearance), Belgium (2nd appearance), and Croatia (4th appearance, 2nd as individual nation). France defeated Belgium 1-0 to advance to the championship with a goal from Samuel Umtiti in the 51st minute. Croatia needed an extra-time goal from Mario Mandzukic in order to advance past England 2-1. The third place game was between Belgium and England. Belgium was able to claim third place with a 2-0 victory over England after scoring early with a goal from Thomas Meunier. The championship match featured France and Croatia.
On July 15th, 2018, France won the World Cup by defeating Croatia 4-2. It is France's second World Cup victory in the country's history. Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won the Golden Ball for outstanding player in the tournament.
After the game Donald Trump tweeted congratulating France and Vladmir Putin for Russia's role hosting the World Cup (shown below, left). French president Emmanuel Macron attended the game and was photographed celebrating his team's victory. A tweet by Indy Football showing Macron celebrating gained over 13,000 retweets and 46,000 likes (shown below, right).
On June 5th, 2018, YouTube released a special trends report revealing insights on the most popular teams and players participating in the 2018 World Cup, sorted by audience location and ranked in the order of aggregate watch time on the platform.
 SkySports – ""World Cup Coverage":http://www.skysports.com/world-cup