The 21st edition of the World Cup kicks off in Russia on June 14, when the hosts take on Saudi Arabia in Moscow. Here are some interesting numbers from the competition's history.
There have been 2379 goals in World Cup history -- the first was scored by Frenchman Lucien Laurent in a 4-1 win over Mexico in Montevideo on July 13, 1930, while the last was Mario Gotze's winner in the 2014 final on the same date exactly 84 years later. The landmark goals have come in World Cups of 1958 (500th), 1978 (1000th), 1994 (1500th) and 2006 (2000th), respectively.
The hosts have played the opening match in nine previous World Cups, with Russia set to join them when they face Saudi Arabia in 2018. The hosts have never lost the opening match, though, with only England (1966), Mexico (1970) and South Africa (2010) drawing their respective openers. England and Italy (1934) are the only hosts who played the opening game and went on to win the World Cup the same year.
Austria and Switzerland played out the highest-scoring World Cup match ever, featuring a 7-5 win for Austria during the 1954 quarter-finals in Lausanne. Switzerland went 3-0 up inside 23 minutes, yet trailed 5-3 by the 35th minute. Theodor Wagner of Austria and Sepp Hugi both scored hat-tricks, only the third time a World Cup match has witnessed two in the same match. Three other World Cup games have seen 11 goals scored, including Hungary's 10-1 win over El Salvador in 1982.
Lothar Matthaus of Germany and Mexico's Antonio Carbajal hold the joint record for most World Cups played, and Mexican defender Rafael Marquez could join the list after the 2018 World Cup. Matthaus, with 25 appearances between 1982 and 1998, holds the record for most matches in World Cup finals, and that record won't be challenged this year. Marquez could have a chance of overtaking Diego Maradona's World Cup record of 16 matches as captain, though. He currently stands tied in second place with Italy's Dino Zoff, both of whom were captain in 14 matches for their respective nations.
The number of international matches Panama, one of two debutants at the 2018 World Cup, have played against their opponents in Group G -- Belgium, England and Tunisia. Panama will thus be the only team involved in three first meetings in the group stages itself, with Iran (Spain and Morocco) and Peru (Australia and Denmark) facing two group opponents for the first time as well. There will be four other first-time matchups at the World Cup group stages, including when Panama's fellow-debutants Iceland face Argentina on June 16 in Moscow.
Only three teams have won every single match at a single World Cup. Uruguay did it in 1930 and Italy emulated them during their successful title defence in 1938. Brazil became the third nation to achieve this feat in Mexico in 1970, and replicated it in 2002.
The most familiar opponents in the group stages at this World Cup are Germany (formerly West Germany) and Sweden, who will be meeting for the 37th time in international football when they face off on June 23 in Sochi. With their first match having taken place in 1911, the head-to-head is led 15-12 by Germany, who have not lost a match in regulation time to Sweden since a 3-1 defeat in a friendly in Stockholm in April 1978.
It has been 40 years since Brazil failed to start their World Cup campaign with a win, when Sweden held them to a 1-1 draw in Argentina during the 1978 World Cup. Their nine wins since is the record for the longest streak of victories in any country's World Cup opening matches. Germany aren't far behind, with seven successive wins in their opening matches since 1990, while Argentina have won six successive opening games since 1994.
Six host nations have won the World Cup -- Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (1998). Since France's victory, a host nation has reached the last four in three of the four World Cups (South Korea were co-hosts with Japan when they reached the 2002 semis), but 2010 also produced the only occasion of the hosts (South Africa) failing to get beyond the group stages in World Cup history.
Brazil are the only non-European nation to have won the World Cup in the 10 held on European soil. Brazil beat hosts Sweden 5-2 in the 1958 final, breaking a sequence of three previous World Cups in Europe won by nations from the same continent. Italy have four World Cup wins on European soil and Germany have three. England and France have also won their only World Cups when hosting the tournament. In fact, 2014 runners-up Argentina were the first non-European nation in a final since Brazil, who won the 2002 final against Germany.