World Cup 2018 is kicking off in June and the 32 participating teams are busy finalising their preparations for the competition.
The tournament will see a total of 64 matches played as the best in the world collide and dozens of stars will be strutting their stuff on the biggest stage in the game.
However, while the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may be central to the action on the field, one man in particular is guaranteed to have an effect: the referee.
The so-called 'man in the middle' has one of the most important jobs in football, so Goal has taken a look at the individuals who will preside over proceedings in Russia.
Who are the World Cup 2018 referees?
FIFA confirmed the identities of the referees that would officiate World Cup 2018 games in March, revealing a panel of 36 individuals from across the globe.
The referees are drawn from the six continental federations that operate under FIFA's umbrella, but, as with the spread of teams involved, the allocation is not strictly equal, with some confederations providing more than others.
European governing body UEFA boasts the biggest number of referees at the tournament with 10. Notably, however, there is not a single British official in the entire panel amid threats of a United Kingdom boycott.
The AFC, CAF, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL confederations each have six representatives, while the OFC has just two.
World Cup 2018 referee confederation breakdown
|Confederation||Number of referees|
FIFA has been monitoring potential candidates for the tournament since September 2014, with a number of seminars taking place around the world to discern which officials are best suited to take charge of games in Russia.
According to FIFA, the selection of the officials "was based on each referee’s skills and personality, as well as his level of understanding of football and ability to read both the game and the various tactics employed by teams."
A two-week seminar will be held in Italy, at the technical centre of the Italian football association (FIGC) in Florence, during the second half of April. At the conclusion of the seminar FIFA will announce the names of the individuals who will act as video assistant referees (VARs).
World Cup 2018 referees
|Fahad Al-Mirdasi||AFC||Saudi Arabia|
|Mohammed Abdulla Mohamed||AFC||United Arab Emirates|
|Nawaf Abdulla Shukralla||AFC||Bahrain|
|Medhi Abid Sharef||CAF||Algeria|
|Bakary Papa Gassama||CAF||Gambia|
|Bamlak Tessema Wayesa||CAF||Ethiopa|
|Joel Aguilar||CONCACAF||El Salvador|
|Mark W. Geiger||CONCACAF||USA|
|Ricardo Montero||CONCACAF||Costa Rica|
|Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos||CONCACAF||Mexico|
|Matthew Conger||OFC||New Zealand|
|Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz||UEFA||Spain|
Who are the World Cup 2018 assistant referees?
As is normal practice, each referee at the World Cup will be helped by a small team of assistants and FIFA has confirmed the 63 assistant referees for the tournament.
Generally speaking, the officials who have been selected - both referees and assistants - will be deployed in a number of different roles, such as assistant referee, fourth official and video assistant referee.
World Cup 2018 assistant referees
|AFC||Yasser Kalil Abdulla Tulefat (Bahrain), Mohammed Al Abakry (Saudi Arabia), Taleb Al Marri (Qatar), Mohamed Alhammadi (UAE), Abdulah Alshalwai (Saudi Arabia), Mohammedreza Mansouri (Iran), Abduxamidullo Rasulov (Uzbekistan), Toru Sagara (Japan), Jakongi Saidov (Uzbekistan), Reza Sokhandan (Iran)|
|CAF||Redouane Achik (Morocco), Waleed Ahmed (Sudan), Jean Claude Birumushahu (Burundi), Djibril Camara (Senegal), Jerson Emiliano Dos Santos (Angola), Abdelhak Etchiali (Algeria), Anouar Hmila (Tunisia), Marwa Range (Kenya), El Hadji Malick Samba (Senegal), Zakhele Thusi Silewa (South Africa)|
|CONCACAF||Frank Anderson (USA), Joe Fletcher (Canada), Miguel Angel Hernandez Paredes (Mexico), Juan Carloa Mora Araya (Costa Rica), Corey Rockwell (USA), Marvin Torrentera (Mexico), Gabriel Victoria (Panama), Juan Zumba (El Salvador)|
|CONMEBOL||Carlos Astroza (Chile), Juan Pablo Belatti (Argentina), Eduardo Cardozo (Paraguay), Emerson De Carvalho (Brazil), Cristian De La Cruz (Colombia), Mauricio Espinosa (Uruguay), Alexander Guzman (Colombia), Hernan Maidana (Argentina), Christian Schiemann (Chile), Nicolas Taran (Uruguay), Marcelo Van Gasse (Brazil), Juan Zorrilla (Paraguay)|
|OFC||Bertrand Brial (New Caledonia), Simon Lount (New Zealand), Tevita Makasini (Tonga)|
|UEFA||Anton Averianov (Russia), Mark Borsch (Germany), Pau Cebrian Devis (Spain), Nicolas Danos (France), Elnenito Di Liberatore (Italy), Roberto Diaz Perez (Spain), Dalibor Djurdjevic (Serbia), Bahattin Duran (Turkey), Cyril Gringore (France), Tikhon Kalugin (Russia), Tomasz Listkiewicz (Poland), Stefan Lupp (Germany), Tarik Ongun (Turkey), Jure Praprotnik (Slovenia), Milovan Ristic (Serbia), Pawel Sokolnicki (Poland), Mauro Tonolini (Italy), Sander van Roekel (Netherlands), Robert Vukan (Slovenia), Erwin Zeinstra (Netherlands)|
How much are World Cup 2018 referees paid?
Officials are expected to command salaries relative to their roles, meaning that there will be a scale of payment.
FIFA has not confirmed the amount of the payments that will be made to the referees and assistant referees at the World Cup, but, reports online have indicated that they will receive a fee plus extras per game.
According to UOL Esporte, the most experienced and qualified referees will be paid $70,000 for their services at the World Cup with a further $3,000 per game officiated.
The same report says that assistant referees will receive a lower fee of $25,000 with an extra $2,000 per game.
Which referees will officiate each game?
Because preparations are still ongoing FIFA has not yet appointed match officials for the World Cup games, so we will have to wait to find out for now.
The final FIFA referee seminar before the World Cup is set to take place on June 4, which is 10 days before the opening game between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Once the referees have had their final briefing it stands to reason that match officials for each game will be publicly confirmed, but confirmation could also happen before then.
It is likely that the most experienced and qualified referees will take charge of the bigger games, such as the knock-out stages and final.