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This was different from previous draws, when only pot 1 was based on FIFA rankings while the remaining pots were based on geographical considerations.

However, teams from the same confederation still were not drawn against each other for the group stage, except that two UEFA teams could be in each group.

Russia won the right to be the 2018 host in the second round of voting.

The Portugal/Spain bid came second, and that from Belgium/Netherlands third.

The finals involved 32 teams, of which 31 came through qualifying competitions, while the host nation qualified automatically.

Of the 32 teams, 20 had also appeared in the last tournament in 2014, while both Iceland and Panama made their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup.

Both Iceland and Panama qualified for the first time, with the former becoming the smallest country in terms of population to reach the World Cup.

Other teams returning after absences of at least three tournaments include: Egypt, returning to the finals after their last appearance in 1990; Morocco, who last competed in 1998; Peru, returning after 1982; and Senegal, competing for the second time after reaching the quarter-finals in 2002.

Notable countries that failed to qualify include four-time champions Italy (for the first time since 1958), three-time runners-up and third placed in 2014 the Netherlands (for the first time since 2002), and four reigning continental champions: 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winners Cameroon, two-time Copa América champions and 2017 Confederations Cup runners-up Chile, 2016 OFC Nations Cup winners New Zealand, and 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup champions United States (for the first time since 1986).

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was the 21st FIFA World Cup, an international football tournament contested by the men's national teams of the member associations of FIFA once every four years.

It took place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018.

Bastian Dankert (Germany)Artur Soares Dias (Portugal)Paweł Gil (Poland)Massimiliano Irrati (Italy)Tiago Martins (Portugal)Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)Daniele Orsato (Italy)Paolo Valeri (Italy)Felix Zwayer (Germany) Shortly after the International Football Association Board's decision to incorporate video assistant referees (VARs) into the Laws of the Game, on 16 March 2018, the FIFA Council took the much-anticipated step of approving the use of VAR for the first time in a FIFA World Cup tournament.

are very close to the Europe-Asia border, to reduce travel time for the teams in the huge country.

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