The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, kicking off Thursday, will be one of the biggest events of the year and demands a prize purse to match its status as the pick of the summer sports calendar.
The Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated) confirmed in October that FIFA increased the competition's overall prize fund to $400 million (£297 million), with a $38 million (£28 million) slice of that going to the victor.
All 32 teams will receive the same $8 million (£6 million) appearance fee that was awarded in 2014—despite the overall prize purse growing by 12 per cent. Teams ejected in the round of 16 earn $12 million (£9 million), while a quarter-final exit yields a $16 million (£11.9 million) parachute.
The runners-up in Russia will net a handsome $28 million (£20.8 million) payday, while those finishing third and fourth get $24 million (£17.8 million) and $22 million (£16 million), respectively.
OddsShark provided an overview of odds leading up to the World Cup, with Germany and Brazil sharing favourite status while World Cup debutants Iceland are among the also-rans:
The promise of a financial payoff is sure to provide some smaller teams with motivation just to progress in the competition, and we discuss some of those hopefuls in further detail ahead.
2018 World Cup 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, Korea Republic
- Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
- Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Russia find themselves in a precarious position ahead of their home World Cup, under pressure to at least make it out of the group stage on their own soil, and yet the odds seem stacked against them.
It's inevitable that any host will fall under an increased scrutiny to do well given the opportunity they've been handed, but all three Group A opponents—Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia—sit ahead of Russia in the world rankings:
The Russians are lacking in individual star talent and have only won two World Cup group games in three appearances at the finals, the most recent of which came 16 years ago.
However, statistician Simon Gleave has spoken positively regarding Russia's chances of finishing in Group A's top two, as long as Mohamed Salah doesn't pioneer Egypt to a first appearance in the round of 16:
Pot 1 entry Poland and South American giants Colombia are the natural favourites in Group H, but Senegal bring a host of star players to the stage, while Japan, although lacking in household names, are always a well-regimented side. There are no overwhelming underdogs in this pool, either:
Both Poland and Colombia would be disappointed if they were to finish second in the group, and yet Senegal or Japan could easily see either of them fail to advance at all if they improve their recent form.
The same could be said for Tunisia in Group G as they look to upset the rhythms of Belgium and England, the latter of whom they're actually adjacent to in the world rankings, per reporter Laure James:
England have never failed to progress past the group stage in successive World Cups, but after falling at the first hurdle in Brazil four years ago, they will need to be wary of Tunisia and minnows Panama.
Panama shook the CONCACAF ranks when they beat the United States to a World Cup spot last year, and England need to rise to the occasion to avoid the same fate Costa Rica and Uruguay subjected them to in 2014.