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World Cup 2018: the best apps to follow the games

So the World Cup is fast approaching, and even if you’re not usually a big soccer fan it’s hard not to avoid the pull of the biggest sporting tournament on the planet. Running for a full month from June 14, it’s likely to feature heavily on the news and around the water cooler – so why not join the fun?

(Note: most of our readers are from the United States, so despite it feeling oh-so-wrong to an Englander like me I’m going to refer to football as soccer for this piece.)

Sadly the USA failed to qualify, while readers in the UK will be hoping England can improve on the hapless displays of Euro 2016. But there’s more to the World Cup than blindly following your country’s inevitable demise, and there are countless apps to help you get into the spirit of the World Cup.

The following apps are all free downloads unless otherwise noted, though bear in mind many of the games include in-app purchases.

How to watch the World Cup

If you live in the US and have an appropriate cable subscription, you can stream everything live from the Fox Sports app.

In the UK, broadcasting rights are split between two networks so you’ll need both BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub to catch all the games.

Anyone based in Australia can stream via Optus Sport. Elsewhere in the world, your best bet is to search “World Cup streaming” on the App Store.

Best soccer games for iOS

Sick of watching overpaid sportsmen on the big screen? Why not play a few matches yourself! These days there’s almost too much choice when it comes to iOS sports sims, so the best soccer game will really depend on your preferences.

For realism and fancy graphics you’ve got FIFA Football, which has the benefit of licensing all the official strips and player likenesses. We also have a soft spot for the fast arcade action and simplistic graphics of Stickman Soccer. Or, if 90s retro graphics are your thing then Pixel Cup Soccer ($1/£1) is a match made in heaven.

Stickman Soccer may look simple, but it has surprising depth and includes a full World Cup mode

Score Hero is a love letter to the beautiful game that has you passing and shooting with a swipe of your finger, while Soccer Stars is a radical simplification of the sport that’s essentially online turn-based air hockey.

Score Hero includes a compelling story mode

If management is more your bag, you can’t beat the in-depth strategizing of Football Manager Touch 2018, though it only works on iPad and will set you back a princely $20/£20. For iPhone, we’d recommend the Mourinho-backed excitement of Top Eleven instead.

Football Manager for iPad is unparalleled on iOS

And if – for some reason – you want to relive the tension of a penalty shootout, Final Kick offers the chance to outwit real opponents in a real-time multiplayer face-off.

Keeping up with the cup

BBC Sport is hard to beat for its tournament coverage, with in-depth reporting and analysis of every kick of the cup. If that doesn’t float your boat, Onefootball is another good independent source of footy news and stats. Set one of these up with push notifications and you can get live alerts for every goal.

Onefootball has live scores, breaking news, and lots of stats

Finally, if you want to compete with your friends, Soccerway Fantasy iTeam is the best global fantasy league we’ve found on the App Store – pick your favorite players and see who scores the most points.

There you have it! All manner of ways to get involved with the World Cup. The only thing left to do now is rig the office sweepstake…