In a little over 24 hours from now, the first important official event of 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup will unfold in Saint Petersburg’s historic Konstantin Palace. The grand show will be attended by such luminaries as Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Forlan, Fabio Cannavaro, Samuel Eto, Oliver Bierhoff, Rinat Dasaev and Alexander Kerzhakov. These iconic footballers will be joined by Predrag Rajkovic, the captain of Serbia’s 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup winning team and the captain of the 2015 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup champion. The football stars have been invited to assist FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke in the Preliminary Draw scheduled for 25 July, 2015 at 6 PM local time. The result of the draw will determine the fates of teams from five of the six confederations participating in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Other than revealing the qualifying matches over the next two years, the glittering ceremony will also provide the global football community a glimpse of Russia’s rich culture and music.
The evolution of the draw, procedure details and the concept of the Draw Show were explained during a press conference of July 22, 2015 at the Konstantin Palace. Organizers and FIFA officials outlined the entire gamut to hundreds of journalists from all around the world. The FIFA World Cup preliminary Draw has taken the form of a cultural show piece since 1971 and it has drawn inspiration from earlier marquee events at venues like the Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Louvre Museum in Paris. St. Petersburg is just a chain in the historic events as it attempts to carry on the tradition of these memorable draws. The chief of FIFA’s Films’ Division, Paul Redman feels that the great Konstantin Palace will provide breath-taking backdrop, when the live TV feed goes to over 170 countries in the world. The presence of celebrities will make the show absolutely engrossing for the global viewers.
The procedure of the draw is long-lasting but fascinating. In the end, it will finally decide 31 nations that will take part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup as Russia qualifies automatically because of its host status. But the preliminary draw on July 25 will only determine qualifiers in each of the six confederations that will launch the preliminary competition for 32 months featuring 851 matches between March 2015(some matches have already been played) and November 2017. Only then it will be known which 31 nations will join Russia for the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup.
Of the 208 FIFA member nations, Zimbabwe were expelled from World Cup in March 2015 for failing to pay their former coach Jose Claudinei. Indonesia were also excluded after suspension of their football association by FIFA on 30 May 2015. While the July 25 draw is regarded as the qualifying draw, a number of qualification matches have already been played. On Saturday at St. Petersburg, there will be 141 teams in the Preliminary Draw. While the FIFA World Cup organizing committee has already unveiled the match schedules for Confederations Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup; the preliminary draw will determine who plays whom. These 851 matches are bound to attract huge viewership if one goes by the numbers revealed in the similar preliminary rounds of the 2014 Brazil World Cup. The 820 preliminary matches of the last World Cup were seen by 17 million people in stadiums alone with the television audience running into hundreds of millions. This highlights the tremendous outreach of the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup. The 2018 World Cup preliminary matches are destined to break that record.
The Preliminary Draw will also include the first taste of Russian culture to the viewers. The global TV audience will be privy to a colorful ceremony at Konstantin Palace, which celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. The show has a theme called; “The Dream starts here” because for Russia, it is a dream to host the World Cup and Preliminary Draw marks the beginning of that dream. The performance will feature 350 artists and showcase the richness and diversity of Russia’s culture for viewers. The show will end with a performance by singer Polina Gagarina, who will be accompanied by a chorus of 209 children conducted by Valery Gergiev, director of the world-famous Mariinskiy Theater.