Host Nation - Russia
Russia was chosen to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It is a first for Russia. And as one can imagine, the preparations started as early as 2009 when the groundwork was being laid. An estimated $10 billion is to be spent for the 2018 soccer tournament. It was announced on 2nd December 2010 that Russia will be host.
Brief History - Russia Soccer
Looking at the FIFA World Rankings, Russia sits at Number 70. I would have expected Russia to crack at least the top 60, considering Japan is #61 and South Korea #57.
When we start looking at Russia’s past record at major tournaments - Euro 2012 & 2016, World Cup 2010 & 2014. It is clear they had under-performed. Many factors were cited. Lack of adaptability to weather / pitch conditions, internal strife, quality of players and coaching staff.
A few note-worthy points:
Russia did not even qualify for the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa.
The 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan
South Korea finished 4th in the 2002 World Cup!
Expectation - World Cup Host
List of Host Country and Winners: Source
It is worth pointing out that the countries which hosted the past World Cups made it to at least the Knockout Stages - Round of 16, with the exception of Team South Africa in 2010, who was eliminated in the group stage.
A majority of those host nations minimally reached the Quarter-Finals.
Sports fans around the globe know the value of home ground advantage, as a study conducted in 2011 showed.
Home Advantage - Round of 16
Russia has already qualified for the last 16, after their excellent 3-1 victory of Egypt yesterday. Full highlights here.
With the knowledge that the Round-of-16 is in the bag, Russia will be facing the winner/runner-up of Group B, in the knockout stages.
Barring any surprises, Russia may likely face Spain or Portugal. Tough opponents, but they could rest their key players in the 3rd match, keeping them fresh for the knockout stages. And playing to a home crowd of 144 million Russians cheering and rooting for their motherland, the question is:
How far can Russia advance in this unpredictable 2018 FIFA World Cup?
I dare say the Quarter-Finals is within Russia's grasp!
What are your thoughts about the 2018 FIFA World Cup? Has it lived up to your expectation thus far? Can the host nation rise up to the occasion and out-perform their history?
Leave your comments below and we can have a great discussion.