The 2018 World Cup kicks off on Thursday when host nation Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s opening game.
With the eyes of the world on the soccer showpiece, fans are searching Google for the top World Cup stars. The latest data from Google trends reveals that Argentina captain Lionel Messi is the most searched player in the world, followed by Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo. Brazil’s Neymar, France’s Kylian Mbappé and Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah round out the top five.
The most searched national team in the U.S. is Mexico (the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup). Intriguingly, the most searched team in host nation Russia is five-time World Cup winner Brazil.
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 ousted manager in English worldwide on Wednesday, followed by “Why was Julen Lopetegui fired.”
Lopetegui was fired after accepting a job at Real Madrid next season. He will be replaced by retired playing legend Fernando Hierro for the country's match against Portugal on Friday.
Google also noted a spike in searches for the 2026 World Cup on Wednesday, when soccer’s international governing body FIFA announced that the competition would be held in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
As with other major sporting events, a special Google doodle also celebrates the start of the World Cup. The doodle features guest artists from each of the 32 participating nations.
Other tech giants are also ramping up their World Cup efforts. Twitter, for example, has unveiled a host of new features geared toward soccer fans.
Apple is also getting in on the World Cup action, with Siri answering questions about World Cup scores, schedules, standings and team rosters.
World Cup-related content will also be featured in the App Store throughout the month-long tournament, “App Store editors will highlight their favorite apps and games from football stars, offer tips on taking a perfect football photo and how to best get your football fix on social media,” explained Apple, in a statement.
In the U.S., fans will be able to use the Apple TV App’s Sports feature to keep track of the World Cup action on the FOX NOW streaming app.
21st Century Fox is providing extensive coverage of the World Cup, with games airing on Fox Sports 1 and Fox and live streamed via Fox Sports Go and Fox Soccer Match Pass.
Additionally, Apple Music will feature playlists for each of the 32 countries participating in the World Cup.
Facebook is offering fans special World Cup profile picture frames as well as Augmented Reality stickers of star players for Facebook Camera, AdWeek reports.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers