Write Your Headlines Now : 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA
Two of the world’s best footballers; the stars who are expected to shine; the defending champions looking for an encore; the debut of the VAR — here are a few things set to take centre-stage at the World Cup which kicks off today
MESSI AND RONALDO
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have split the last 10 FIFA Player of the Year awards, and this is likely to be their last chance to win a World Cup. Messi turns 31 on June 24, two days before Argentina finish the first round against Nigeria. The FC Barcelona superstar has lost four finals with the national team including the 1-0 loss to Germany at the World Cup in Brazil four years ago. Ronaldo, 33, helped Portugal win the 2016 European Championship for their first major title.
Brazil's Neymar, England's Harry Kane, Egypt's Mohamed Salah, France's Antoine Griezmann and Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne are stars who could lift themselves into Player of the Year contention with stellar World Cups. Neynmar’s previous World Cup ended in tears as the Brazilian’s campaign on home soil was curtailed by an injury suffered in the quarterfinal encounter against Colombia. Challenging Neymar for a header, defender Juan Zuniga’s knee had given a vertebral fracture to the former Barcelona forward in the 88th minute, which had forced a substitution from then Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. This time too there were injury concerns surrounding Neymar, but his return in the Selecao’s last two friendlies has erased such hints of a doubt.
BACK TO BACK
Italy in 1934 and '38, and Brazil in 1958 and '62 are the only teams to win consecutive World Cups. Germany was 10-0 in qualifying, the only European team with a perfect record, and outscored opponents 43-4.
PLAY IT AGAIN
Following the first use of goal-line technology at a World Cup in 2014, FIFA has expanded the horizons for their off-the-field decision-making techniques. A video assistant referee (VAR) can notify the referee by headset of the need to reverse a decision if there is a "clear error" involving goals and their buildups, penalty kicks, straight red cards, and mistaken identity for red and yellow cards.
ICE, ICE BABY
Iceland at about 335,000 becomes the least-populous nation to appear in a World Cup, a mark that had been held since 2006 by Trinidad and Tobago at 1.3 million.
Injured players missing the tournament include Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero and midfielder Manuel Lanzini; France defender Laurent Koscielny; Serbia defender Matija Nastasic; Brazil right back Dani Alves; and England midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.
The World Cup final starts two hours after the beginning of the Wimbledon men's singles final. If Spain and Rafa Nadal are playing for titles, and the tennis fixture isn't decided in straight sets, which event do the fans watch?
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