This summer’s World Cup will be held in Russia with 32 teams playing 64 games across 12 venues. Richard Hall looks at the stadiums and cities hosting the greatest show on earth.
It is fitting that the largest stadium in Russia will host the opening game, a semi-final and the final itself. The Luzhniki Stadium has evolved over time and was originally built in 1950 before being renovated in the 1980s for the Olympic games. The venue will host four group games, including an interesting tie between Germany and Mexico on June the 17. Out of the World Cup, the stadium has been a host on occasion to Spartak, CSKA and Torpedo as well playing home to the national team. It is most notable to non-Russians perhaps as the venue that hosted the Champions League Final in 2008.
This is one of the most eye-catching and is the home of Spartak Moscow. The red and white diamonds on the outer shell perhaps give this away, as they are designed to look like chainmail. The club finally gained a home ground in 2014 and have taken it to their hearts. Built in a former airfield, its opening game saw Spartak draw 1-1 with Red Star Belgrade and it has since hosted last year’s Confederation Cup. It will host four group games and one match in the last 16, with Argentina v Iceland perhaps being the pick of the bunch on June 16.
This stadium is brand new for the World Cup and is in a picturesque backdrop. Nizhny Novgorod is a historic city which overlooks the River Volga and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The ground itself is somewhat of a visual feast, as it was inspired by the nature of the Volga region. FIFA have described the circular design that is supposed to embody wind and water as a “semi-transparent undulating façade”. The ground will play host to four group games, a match in the last 16 and one quarter-final. One of the stand out games will see Argentina face Croatia on June 21. The ground will be handed over to Olimpiyets Nizhny Novgorod after the finals.
Situated on the banks of the Kazanka River, the Kazan Arena is home to Rubin Kazan and is a modern and well thought out stadium. Built by the same architect who designed the Emirates and new Wembley Stadium, it sits in the largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan. Constructed for the World University Games in 2013, the stadium is multifunctional, as it hosted the World Aquatics finals in 2015 when the football pitch was swapped for two swimming pools. This stadium will host four group games, a match in the last 16 and a quarter-final. The match between South Korea and Germany is certainly one that will be worth tuning in for on June 27.
The Kaliningrad Stadium is another multi-purpose arena and is the most westerly, sitting on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania. The design is similar to that of Bayern’s Allianz Arena and was only opened this year. This venue had to be scaled back and is 10,000 short of its capacity and never got its roof. Financial difficulties and the bankruptcy of the building companies have made constriction a painful process and after the tournament it will lose another 10,000 seats to cope with the low crowds of FC Baltika Kaliningrad. This stadium will host four games, with England and Belgium being the highest profile.
This is the most easterly stadium in the World Cup and it’s situated on the European/Asian border in the shadow of the Ural Mountains. The arena was constructed originally in 1953 and was redeveloped in 2007. It has undergone a facelift for the World Cup and has temporary stands to meet the FIFA capacity requirements. The characteristic stadium has a very ‘Soviet’ feel to it and represents Russian architecture of years gone by. It will host four group games, with France v Peru an intriguing tie that will be worth watching. After the tournament it will return to being the home of Ural Ekaterinburg, who play in the Russian Premier League.
This is a new stadium that sits in a spectacular setting on the banks of the River Don. The historic city of Rostov (home of the Cossacks) will provide a welcome resting place for all who visit and there will be some traffic during the tournament. The stadium hosts four group games and a match in the second round with Brazil v Switzerland on June 17 seemingly being a game to keep your eye on. The stadium was completed at the end of 2017 and will be the new home of Russian Premier League side FC Rostov. The team finished second in the league and won the Russian Cup back in 2014.
The St Petersburg Arena could claim to be the best in the tournament. Situated on the Neva River, it is the most Northern venue in the tournament and was finished in 2017 (it was meant to be complete in 2009). The city is one of the most beautiful in Europe and it will be the setting for some big games as it hosts four group ties, a second round match, a semi-final and the third place play-off. Russia will take on Egypt in this ground and the venue is used to big events already, as it hosted the 2017 Confederations Cup Final. It is also going to be one of the venues for the 2020 European Championships. Home to Zenit St Petersburg, it is one of the most advanced in world football with a retractable roof and a sliding pitch.
Samara is the sixth largest city in Russia and it is situated on the east bank of the Volga. The initial plans for the stadium were hoping to see it situated on a deserted island south of the city, but soon the idea seemed folly. Eventually it was relocated to the north of the city, making it far more accessible. The dome-shaped stadium was only started in 2014, but now complete, it is certainly impressive. The theme of the dome is space and it hopes to reflect the region’s aerospace industry, hosting four group games, one second round match and a quarter final. The pick of the matches looks to be the clash between Russia and Uruguay on June 25, the stadium will play host to Krylya Sovetov after the World Cup.
This is another brand-new structure created for the 2018 World Cup and although it can hold 44,000, for the tournament it will be reduced to 25,000 when the temporary stands are taken down. The extra space gained will be freed up for other indoor sports that will take place in the complex and as FC Mordovia do not have that large a following, it will be a perfect match. The stadium will watch over four group games, with Colombia and Japan being the star turn on June 19. The colourful stadium is on the bank of the Insar River and is a credit to itself despite the lack of funding causing delays along the way.
This will be well known from the Winter Olympics in 2014, as the resort city of Sochi on the Black Sea was the choice of venue. This stadium will be used as a home to the Russian national team (both for training and full games) after the tournament and is, when all said and done, state of the art. The backdrop to this ground is stunning, as it stands in the shadow of the Caucasus mountain range and as mentioned, has the Black Sea on the other side. This stadium also has had temporary seating put in and will be one of the more important venues hosting four group games, a second-round fixture and a quarter final. Germany v Sweden is certainly a key game that will be played in the beautiful venue.
This ground was purpose-built for the World Cup and is situated in the city formerly known as Stalingrad. Built on the site of the old Central Ground on the Volga River, it will be home for Rotor Volgograd after the tournament. The roof on this stadium is something to behold with the cables looking like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. The ground hosts four group games and hosts England as they take on Tunisia on June 18. This has to be one of the best-looking grounds in the World Cup.