Here at Oppabet, we’ve talked a lot about the World Cup through a brief history about the previous FIFA World Cup winners so far as well as an overview of the World Cup terms that you should probably be familiar with before settling down to watch a match! However, there’s so much more to the World Cup than simply watching the games, rooting for your favorite teams, and maybe even dabbling in sports betting every now and then.
One important thing to understand further is the World Cup fixtures! That is: why are certain teams playing specifically against each other? How are these schedules decided and, more importantly, how do they even determine which teams make it this far into the tournament? Basically, how do the World Cup fixtures work?
These are the questions that we aim to answer in this quick but comprehensive guide to World Cup fixtures.
In the world of sports and sports betting, fixtures is the fancy and official name for the schedule of a team or of the entire tournament itself. Usually, these fixtures will include which teams are playing, the date and time, as well as the venue (i.e. which team is playing at their home stadium and which team is ‘visiting’).
If you’re following a specific team throughout a tournament, it’s likely that you can find their set fixtures on the team website. On the other hand, tournament websites will provide the schedules per leg (or stage), depending on which teams are advancing to the next stages.
When it comes to the World Cup, the matches are scheduled as the stages of the tournament progress. As such, the World Cup fixtures are formed first through the Group stages (starting with 32 teams), then the Round of 16, and so on until the last two teams face off in the Finals. If you’re interested in placing bets with trusted online casinos like Oppabet (whether you’re rooting for your home team or just looking for the team with the best odds), during the Group stages is a good time to start! This is when you would really be able to analyze a team’s performance for any future bets you’d want to make as well.
Of course, there’s an entire process that happens even before we get to the Group stages; the Qualifiers determine which national teams will represent the regional confederation they’re part of. The next section will briefly talk about the six confederations in the FIFA and the process of elimination that occurs in order to finalize the World Cup fixtures.
Starting with the 2026 World Cup, the number of eligible teams to proceed to the Group stage is increasing from 32 to 48. Still, the process takes almost 2 years simply because there are over 200 national teams competing, and each region has their own tournaments and rules to determine who their top teams are.
For starters, FIFA has six regions with their own confederation that governs the rules and procedures for football within their jurisdiction: Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), and Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
Each year, the host country is automatically eligible for one of the 32 spots. Previously, former World Cup winners were also given a berth for qualification, but that’s no longer the case. Then, FIFA decides how many slots are assigned to each region depending on the number of participating teams and their relative strengths. The confederations may choose to set up their qualifying rounds in one of two ways:
● League format: participating teams form groups to play round-robin matches, i.e. play each other in turn in home-and-away venues. In this format, the ranking of each team is computed based on various criteria including points, overall goals scored, goal difference, away goals, and more.
● Knockout format: participating teams play single- or double-legged home-and-away matches. In this format, the teams’ aggregate scores determine who moves on; in the case of a tie, away goals are considered.
Given the number of teams as well as other concurrent leagues within each confederation, it makes sense that this part of the World Cup fixtures process alone takes 2 years!
At this point, now we’re down to the 32 teams. Eight groups are formed with four teams each; the host team and 7 others, depending on FIFA World Rankings and performance in previous World Cups. Meanwhile, the rest of the teams are assigned at random provided there are no more than two European teams or one team from the other confederations in each group.
Then each group plays a round-robin tournament, resulting in a total of six matches each. This will determine the first set of World Cup fixtures! For example, let’s say Group A consists of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, anad Uruguay. The six matches within this group will be:
The top two teams (again determined by the point system - 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss) from each group then proceed to the knockout stage, or round of 16.
The next set of World Cup fixtures are for the knockout stage. Here, the winner of one group plays against the runner-up of the next group, and so on and so forth. Since only single-elimination matches are played, the team that loses is immediately knocked out of the tournament - hence the name. This stage reduces the number of teams to just 8!
The next stages of the World Cup fixtures are standard across most team sports tournaments like this. The 8 teams from the knockout stage again play single-elimination matches for the quarter-finals; the 4 victorious teams from this proceed to the semi-finals. The teams that lose their semi-final matches then play against each other for third place. Finally, the two teams that win their semi-finals match go head-to-head in the much-awaited finals!
These World Cup fixtures, of course, are only released as each round progresses and the winners are officially announced. Thus, any fan would really have to keep a constant eye out for any updates. Oppabet is one of the best online sportsbooks that will help keep you updated on which World Cup matches are upcoming - and thus, which ones you can place your bets on! Be sure to check out SBOBET on Oppabet - or, for more options, you can peruse Pinnacle as well for all your sports betting needs. Sign up on Oppabet today!
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