82 days to go: The party gets bigger in Spain

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ is getting closer – 82 days to go!

In less than three months' time – on 14 June, to be precise – the 21st FIFA World Cup™ kicks off at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, as the hosts take on Saudi Arabia.

That leaves us plenty of time to enjoy a countdown. Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will take a closer look at a different statistic from the history of the tournament each day.

82 - After more than 50 years in which no more than 16 national teams could compete for the biggest prize in football, the 1982 FIFA World Cup™ in Spain was the first to feature 24 sides. Fourteen of the contenders came from Europe, four from South America, two from Central America, two from Africa, one from Asia and another from Oceania. Five teams – Algeria, Honduras, Cameroon, Kuwait and New Zealand – got their very first taste of World Cup action.

Expanding the tournament to 24 participants addressed two main developments in the sport – the ever-increasing number of national teams applying to take part in World Cup qualification and, more importantly, the rising number of countries able to compete with the world’s elite. Strangely enough, the runners-up at the previous two tournaments, the Netherlands, failed to book their tickets to the Iberian Peninsula despite the expansion.

The enlarged field also required adjustments to the format of the competition. Between the first round-robin group stage and the semi-finals, a second round was introduced for twelve teams who were split into four groups of three, with the winner of each of these groups progressing to the last four. This format was only used in 1982.