With the group phase finished and the knockout stage of the competition beginning on Saturday, the 2018 FIFA World Cup has already been a nail-biter. This year’s cup, held across a variety of cities in Russia, has had no shortage of exciting plays and shocking upsets—including Germany’s early elimination in a 2-0 loss to South Korea. The final 16 teams in the incredibly popular international tournament will duke it out until mid-July, so before you sit down to watch, here’s everything you need to know about the World Cup.


1. The World Cup begins with 31 teams, which are eventually whittled down to a single shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo standing atop a pile of severed limbs and deflated soccer balls.

2. The World Cup is the most viewed sporting event in the world after any televised darts match.

3. Despite it being the highest-rated sporting event in the world, no one—including the players—knows whether the whole thing goes on for one long weekend or a full-blown three months or what. 

4. A referee has not won the World Cup since 1974.

5. This isn’t entirely related, but the movie Bend It Like Beckham was really pleasant, wasn’t it? Fun and lighthearted but full of well-written characters that seemed like real people. They should make more movies like that. Guess it was the soccer part that reminded us. Anyway, back to the World Cup. 

6. The U.S. men’s national team threw several matches in order to avoid qualifying for the 2018 World Cup so that they would be able to watch the season premiere of Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce right when it aired. 

7. Although the vuvuzela was banned from the World Cup in 2010, FIFA does allow fans to express their excitement using a tape recording of a man screaming, “Supportive horns of soccer!”

8. With hours of high-stakes soccer games televised nearly every day, the World Cup is the ideal opportunity for soccer fans to watch enough soccer to shut up about it until the next World Cup comes around.

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