Russia is already up against it leading into the World Cup, having failed to win a single match in their previous seven matches leading up to the tournament.
Their task to exceed expectations was only increased earlier this month when they ranked as the worst team at the tournament – 70th in the world.
With the 21st edition of the tournament set to kick off on Friday morning AEST, we’ve taken a look at how host nations have performed in the past.
1930 – Uruguay (winners)
The first ever FIFA World Cup was held in the South American nation after being awarded hosting rights in 1928. From there things only got better as the hosts took out the 13-team tournament which included seven South American nations, four from Europe and two from North America. Uruguay claimed the title after defeating rivals Argentina 4-2 in the final.
1934 – Italy (winners)
The 1938 edition of the World Cup saw a qualification round included for the first time, while the number of participants increased to 16. Defending champions Uruguay decided to boycott the tournament, paving the way for the Italians to came a 2-1 victory against Czechoslovakia in the final.
1938 – France (quarter-final loss to Italy)
Once again, Uruguay decided to boycott the tournament although this time they were joined by Argentina after another European nation was given hosting rights. The tournament in France marked the first time, the title holders and hosts automatically qualified for the competition. Fifteen teams competed, after Austria withdrew just several months before the tournament. Italy claimed back-to-back titles after defeating Hungary in the final.
1950 – Brazil (runners-up)
Teams were forced to wait 12 years for the next tournament due to the outbreak of World War 2 and the return of the competition saw a new format emerge. For the first time, the 15 competing teams were divided into groups with each group winner progressing into the final round. Then each team who progressed faced off in a round-robin scenario. Uruguay came out on top after defeating Brazil in front of almost 200,000 in the final round of matches.
1954 – Switzerland (quarter-final)
A new era dawned on football as the tournament became the first to be televised. West Germany claimed their first World Cup crown after defeating Olympic champions Hungary 3-2. The hosts exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage following a 7-5 loss to Austria, who eventually finished third.
1958 – Sweden (runners-up)
A certain Pele marked his arrival during the 1958 edition of the World Cup, helping to lead Brazil to their first of five World Cups. Unfortunately for the hosts, Brazil’s dream came at their expense as they suffered a 5-2 loss in the final.
1962 – Chile (third place)
Brazil once again proved to be the strongest team in world football as they won back-to-back titles on their home continent. The Chileans fell to the eventual winners in the semi-final stages before regrouping to defeat Yugoslavia in the third place playoff.
1966 – England (winners)
England delivered the ultimate prize when they claimed their first and only World Cup in the mid 1960’s. Led by the likes of Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, the Three Lions were in dreamland after defeating West Germany in the final.
1970 – Mexico (quarter-finals)
Brazil made it three titles in four attempts on Mexican soil, a feat which saw them awarded the Jules Rimet trophy for becoming the first team to claim three crowns. Mexico escaped their group after a second place finish, before falling to Italy in the first round of the knockout stages.
1974 – West Germany (winners)
The West Germans made their mark on world football as they claimed their second World Cup crown. Their tournament victory was confirmed in a 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands in the final. The Dutch team drew plenty of plaudits for their idea of Total Football.
1978 – Argentina (winners)
For the second tournament running, the host nation claimed the title when the final whistle sounded. It was disappointment for the Dutch once again as they fell 3-1 in the final, with Mario Kempes scoring a brace.
1982 – Spain (secondary group stage)
The 1982 edition marked the first expanded competition with 24 teams competing. Teams were originally divided into six groups of four before the top two from each group were divided into four groups of three. Hosts Spain finished bottom of their second group behind West Germany and England. Italy went on to claim their third title.
1986 – Mexico (quarter-finals)
The North American nation became the first country to host World Cups when the tournament returned in the mid-1980’s. Argentina claimed their second tournament win, with Diego Maradona’s ‘hand of god’ goal becoming one of the tournament’s most controversial moments. Mexico enjoyed solid campaign after being knocked out in the quarter-finals by runners-up West Germany.
1990 – Italy (third place)
The Italians saw their campaign end in mixed emotions as they claimed a third place finishing after falling at the semi-final stage to runners-up Argentina. West Germany once again got their hands on the silverware following a 1-0 victory over the South Americans.
1994 – United States (round of 16)
Brazil claimed their fourth title as football’s biggest tournament returned to the North American continent for the second time in eight years. The South Americans accounted for their hosts on the way to the final, defeating them 1-0 in the round of 16.
1998 – France (winners)
The return to Europe saw the tournament expanded to its current 32-team format as the French thrived on home support to claim their first title. It was made all the more sweeter as they defeated the reigning World Cup winners Brazil.
2002 – South Korea (fourth place) and Japan (round of 16)
While Brazil were once again on top of the world it was co-host South Korea who captured everyone’s imaginations in a dream run which saw them fall 3-2 to Turkey in the third place playoff. Japan also enjoyed their own success progressing to the round of 16, also losing to Turkey.
2006 – Germany (third place)
The tournament in Germany marked the first time the current holder was not given an automatic birth into the tournament. Italy thrived in the European conditions to claim another crown, while Germany enjoyed a respectable third place finish after defeating Portugal.
2010 – South Africa (group stage)
One of the most colourful tournaments in history saw Spain claim their first World Cup crown after defeating the Netherlands in the final. It proved to be an unhappy tournament for the hosts as they failed to reach the knockout rounds.
2014 – Brazil (third place)
Brazil had the weight of the nation on their shoulders, four years ago as they fell short of a sixth World Cup crown. Despite the third place finish, their tournament will largely be remembered for their humiliating 7-1 defeat to winners Germany in the semi-final.