The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia begins on June 14 and ends on July 15, with 32 squads from around the globe taking part in football's most prestigious tournament.
Of the 32 teams taking part, 20 of those will be making back-to-back appearances, including reigning champions Germany, while less recognised national sides such as Iceland and Panama are making their first appearances.
Similarly, fans of the beautiful game will see star household names such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo represent their respective countries, but will also have the privilege of discovering new faces as coaches look to break in a new generation of younger players.
Speculation over which players 'should be on the plane' is already rife amongst those eager to see their favourite players turn out for their nations – but spaces in national squads are limited.
So, how many players will make the cut and when will we find out exactly who is going to Russia? Goal has the answers.
When will the World Cup squads be announced?
FIFA released an official statement on February 8 confirming that provisional squad lists – which have increased in size from 30 to 35 players – are required to be submitted by May 14, with their final 23-man squad list to be finalised on June 4 at the latest.
While the FIFA deadline is in place it is at the discretion of each national team coach as to whether they wish to reveal their plans before those dates.
Australia, for example, have already revealed their provisional squad for the tournament, with head coach Bert van Marwijk confirming the names of 32 players who are in the running for a place in the finalised panel. Veteran midfielder Tim Cahill is among them, as is Celtic's Tom Rogic, while a number of A-League players are pushing for inclusion.
Rather than announce an extended squad before whittling it down, Brazil coach Tite is set to announce his final 23-man squad on May 14 in a press conference that will be held at CBF's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Interestingly,16 of that number - including the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho - are already confirmed, meaning that there are seven spaces up for grabs.
The 23-man England squad will be announced on Wednesday May 16 in the afternoon, with manager Gareth Southgate to hold a press conference on Thursday May 17.
Which teams have qualified for the World Cup?
The full list of 32 teams qualified for Russia 2018 is as follows:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
What big teams & players will miss out?
Even though it is the biggest event in football, the World Cup will be devoid of some of the best players in the world in 2018.
Alexis Sanchez won't be taking part as Chile fell at the final hurdle, although their absence at the tournament influenced Argentina's inclusion, meaning fans won't have to miss out on seeing Lionel Messi turn out for the Albiceleste. Similarly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has retired from international football and will not represent Sweden in Russia, despite teasing the media and fans with vague suggestions that he would be going to the tournament.
Italy are probably the most notable absentees, with the four-time World Cup winners having crashed out to Sweden in the play-offs, ending Gianluigi Buffon's hopes of picking up a second title. Gareth Bale's Wales also crashed out in the play-offs, while the Netherlands, who finished third in 2014, miss out too after a dismal qualifying campaign. The United States men's national team didn't make the cut either, meaning they'll miss their first World Cup since 1986.
However, even those nations who did qualify for the tournament will be worrying about the fitness of their star players ahead of the competition and some teams have been dealt personnel blows already.
France boss Didier Deschamps will have to plan for Russia without the services of Laurent Koscielny, who suffered a horrific Achilles tendon injury while playing for Arsenal against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final, while Karim Benzema's omission is taken as a given due to the Real Madrid striker's soured relationship with the national team.
Gareth Southgate will have to re-think his plans for England somewhat after Liverpool duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez sustained season-ending injuries.
While Neymar has been included in Tite's Brazil plans, the Paris Saint-Germain forward is fighting against the clock to recover fully from a foot injury. Brazil and PSG medical staff remain optimistic, however, that he will be ready to play again come mid-June.
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