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2018 FIFA World Cup: What to know

2018 FIFA World Cup: Where is it, how many teams play and how does the tournament work?

The World Cup 2018 begins on Thursday, as host Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s opening game.

With the eyes of the world on the football showpiece, fans search in Google for the top World Cup stars. The most recent data from Google trends reveals that Argentina captain Lionel Messi is the most wanted player in the world, followed by Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo. Brazil’s Neymar, France Kylian Mbappé and Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah will complete the top five.

Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar dominate search ahead of today’s #WorldCup kick-off in Russia.

Explore top searched teams and players on our interactive website: https://t.co/oKg7jqAw2D pic.twitter.com/eQYAgGmKiC

— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends), June 14, 2018

The most popular national team in the US, Mexico is in the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup). Intriguingly, the most wanted team in the host country, Russia, is five times World Cup winner Brazil.

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Spain’s shock decision to sack manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament also drove fans to Google Search this week. “How to pronounce Julen Lopetegui?” was the top question on the sales manager in the English world, on Wednesday, followed by “Why was Julen Lopetegui dismissed.”

“How to pronounce Julen #Lopetegui?” is a top searched question about the redundant Spain manager on the day for the #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eV5f8V0Uet

— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) 13 June 2018

Lopetegui was fired after accepting a job at Real Madrid next season. He will be replaced by retired play legend Fernando Hierro for the country of the match against Portugal on Friday.

Google also pointed to a peak in searches for the 2026 World Cup on Wednesday, when football international governing body FIFA announced that the contest would be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

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As with other major sporting events, a special Google doodle also celebrates the start of the World Cup. The doodle features artists from each of the 32 participating countries.

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Other tech giants are also ramping up their World Cup efforts. Twitter, for example, has unveiled a host of new features aimed at football fans.

Apple is also getting in on the world cup action with Siri answering questions about the World Cup results, schedules, standings and team rosters.

World cup-related content will also show up in the App Store throughout the month-long tournament, the “App Store editors highlight their favorite apps and games from the football star, give tips on taking a perfect football picture and how best to get your football fix on the social media,” says Apple in a statement.

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In the U.S., the fans will be able to use the Apple TV App Sports tracking feature of the world cup action on the FOX NOW streaming app.

21st Century Fox provides a comprehensive coverage of the World Cup, with games broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Fox and streamed live via Fox Sports Go and Fox Soccer Match is Over.

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In addition, Apple’s Music will feature playlists for each of the 32 countries participating in the World Cup.

Facebook is offering fans a special World Cup profile picture frames as Augmented Reality stickers of the star players for Facebook Camera, AdWeek reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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