'Winter has come' for the archetypal 'long summer without football' this year as the greatest show on Earth -- the World Cup -- is all set to roll into people's homes all over the globe!
The teams have reached Russia, which is hosting for the first time, and with just over a day to go before the grand kick-off at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the four-year-wait, which feels far longer, is finally about to come to an end.
The 2018 edition of the World Cup will be the 21st overall, and comes at a time where the traditional footballing powers appear to be pulling further and further away from the rest. Germany are the defending champions and will attempt to complete the decimation of Brazil they began in their historic 7-1 semifinal win in 2014 edition by drawing level with the South American giants who have won five World Cups overall.
Europe's challenge has been dented somewhat, however, as Italy and the Netherlands, who have four World Cups (all Italy's) and generations worth of memories at the biggest stage between them, have failed to qualify. From the Americas too, Chile, the double-defending Copa America champions, haven't made it to Russia.
The World Cup will begin with hosts Russia taking on minnows Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The final will be played a month later, on July 15.
There are 32 teams split into 8 groups of 4 teams each.
After each team plays the others in its group once, the top two teams in each group will progress to the knock-out round.
Format: Group stage (league) -> Round-of-16 (knock-out) -> Quarter-finals -> Semi-final -> 3rd-4th place match and FINAL
Here are the groups:
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
The Matches and Timings:
There will be a maximum of three matches in a day. The first match will kick off at 5:30 pm IST, the second at 8:30 pm IST and the final match of the day, at 11:30 pm IST.
The Ball: the football that will be used this time is the Adidas Telstar 18 and is based on the design for the first Adidas World Cup ball that was used in the Mexico '70 World Cup.
The official song this time is 'Live It Up' with vocals from Will Smith, Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi
The mascot is Zabivaka, which is Russian for 'goalscorer' and is a sort of football-playing wolf. He was picked by an online vote.
Keep up with everything related to the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Republic World!