Children play on a stand advertising the upcoming Fifa World Cup in central Moscow. In the background on the left is the famed Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Picture: REUTERS

Feel it, it is here. The 2018 World Cup launches on Thursday, kicking off a month of action in Russia.

The hosts get the ball rolling when they face Saudi Arabia in a Group A clash in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium (5pm).

Holders Germany will face stiff competition from the likes of Brazil, France, Spain and Argentina.

Portugal, Belgium and England will also have something to say about who will be the winner of the 21st tournament to be crowned the best team on the planet.

Legends like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to cap their amazing careers by lifting the famous trophy in what looks to be their final chance after hitting their 30s.

Meanwhile, the 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada after Fifa's congress voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to back the tri-nation joint bid for the tournament and leave Morocco to miss out for the fifth time.

The North American bid collected 134 votes to the 65 for Morocco. One congress member voted for "neither bid."

The 2026 tournament will be the first expanded tournament featuring 48 teams, up from the current 32-team tournament.

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