What do World Cup captains swap at the beginning of a match?

France's Hugo Lloris and Croatia's Luka Modric exchange pennants ahead of the 2018 World Cup final
(Image credit: Getty)

Captains will exchange pennants before kick-off in all 64 matches at this year’s World Cup.

This is a longstanding tradition in international football and often takes place ahead of significant matches at club level too.

The pennants usually feature the crest of the national team in question, although sometimes national flags are used instead.

The exchange of pennants is intended as a symbol of friendship and mark of respect between the two captains and the countries they represent.

Opposition pennants are usually kept by the recipient country, with significant ones often displayed at museums.

For example, the ‘People’s Collection’ at the National Football Museum in Manchester houses pennants that were once given to the England (opens in new tab) national team and English club sides.

The exchange of pennants takes place in the centre-circle, when the captains will shake hands with each other and with the match officials.

This is also the moment that the referee holds a coin toss to determine which team will kick-off and which end of the pitch each side will occupy in the first half.

This will happen before every game, starting with the opener between Ecuador (opens in new tab) and hosts Qatar (opens in new tab) at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday November 20.

England will get their campaign underway against Iran a day later, before taking on the other two teams in Group B – the USA (opens in new tab) and Wales (opens in new tab).

The top two teams from each group will progress to the knockout rounds, which get underway on December 3.

Despite their recent poor form, Gareth Southgate’s side will be hoping to reach the latter stages after making it to the final of Euro 2020.

Brazil (opens in new tab), Argentina (opens in new tab) and holders France (opens in new tab) are among the favourites to win the World Cup, which has been pushed back to the winter due to the high summer temperatures in Qatar.

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