FILE - This June 28, 2017, file photo shows the refurbished Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, where the opening match and final of the World Cup will be played when the soccer world gathers at 12 stadiums in 11 cities across the European portion of Russia starting June 14 for a 32-day, 64-match championship. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin, File)

Germany looks to become 1st repeat Cup champ in half-century

June 12, 2018 - 11:38 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The soccer world gathers in 11 cities across the European portion of Russia starting Thursday for a 32-day, 64-match championship.

The United States will be missing from the World Cup after seven straight appearances. Four-time champion Italy is out for the first time since 1958. Chile won consecutive Copa America titles as the top South American team, but failed to qualify.

Iceland — the smallest country ever in a World Cup — qualified for the first time.

Defending champion Germany and Brazil are the favorites, and France is fancied behind them with a young roster .

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