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World Cup 100 days out: Seven things to know about Russia 2018

There are just 100 days to go until the start of the FIFA World Cup.

Sochi marked the occasion with a display of footballing dolphins.

Now it is time to take a look at what spectators can look out for in Russia, both on and off the pitch.

From technology assistance to quirky stadiums and delicious food, here are seven things to expect from Russia 2018.

1. VAR may be in use

This will be the most technology-heavy World Cup ever.

The International Football Association Board have unanimously approved the use of Video Assistant Referees.

FIFA will make a final decision on March 17.

The system was trialled at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, and in some domestic matches in Italy, Germany and England.

The exponents of the technology believe it helps ensure fair and accurate decisions are made on the pitch. No longer will key decisions be mired in controversy.

However, it has some detractors as it can take a while for play to cease before an incident is analysed.

It has also caused confusion for spectators in the stadium during games as they are unaware a decision is being reviewed.

2. Time zones and geography

Russia is the largest country in the world and its immense size was always likely to lead to logistical headaches.

But organisers have grouped host venues in the West making life easier for players and supporters.

That said, the distance between the westernmost (Kaliningrad) and easternmost (Ekaterinburg) stadia is about the same as Moscow to London. So roughly a four-hour flight time.

There are 11 host cities in total, with matches played across four time zones.

Fans travelling around will have to make sure they change their watches accordingly to avoid missing a match!

There is also free local transport for spectators with match tickets.

3. Mascot

The 2018 World Cup mascot will be a wolf named Zabivaka, meaning ‘The One Who Scores’ in Russian.

The sunglasses-sporting mascot was the brainchild of student Ekaterina Bocharova and the winning design was chosen by an online vote.

The wolf is designed to exude charm and energy and will hopefully inspire supporters inside and outside the grounds.

Zabivaka’s orange sunglasses give him a resemblance to Edgar Davids. Or is that just us who think that?

According to, he is a ‘fair player… with skill and purpose’. The mascot, not the former Dutch star.

4. Unique stadium features

FIFA’s minimum stadium size requirement is 35,000 spectators.

Russia 2018’s most easterly stadium, the Ekaterinburg Arena, had a problem with a capacity of just 27,000 people.

The solution? Two giant temporary stands outside the permanent structure.

A novel, and potentially vertigo-inducing, answer!

The stands at either end of the stadium expand beyond the roof, increasing the capacity to 45,000.

Being summer in the Northern Hemisphere, hopefully spectators in these seats won’t be too exposed to the elements, but an umbrella might come in handy!

Another stadium to look out for is Sochi’s Olympic stadium or the Fisht Olympic Stadium.

It was used to open the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and will join Turin’s Stadio Olimpico  as the only other venue to host both events.

5. A culinary experience like no other

No trip is complete without trying some local delicacies.

Some of the highlights include Moscow’s famous kalachs (stuffed pastries with baked bread), chudu (crescent-shaped pie) and pyshki (sugary doughnuts sold on just about every street corner).

The bonus for football fans in Sochi are Black Sea cuisine lunch boxes.

Fish from the Black Sea include red mullet, crispy anchovies, breaded mussels and smoked garfish, sprinkled with lemon juice.

Your team may be losing on the pitch, but you can still enjoy a gastronomic triumph off it. All presented in a fan-friendly box.

6. A prediction on the pitch

Only teams coached by a fellow national have won the World Cup.

By that logic, there are 20 nations (who are managed by one of their own) who can lift the iconic trophy on July 15th:

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay.

So who is your pick?

7. Vikings finally come to the party

Russia 2018 will be Iceland’s first World Cup appearance – not bad for a nation with just 334,000 inhabitants.

They famously knocked England out of Euro 2016 and are not to be underestimated.

And you can be sure, there will be a performance of their Viking Thunder-Clap!


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