The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Doha on November 20. Hosts Qatar will face Ecuador in the inaugural game. Thirty-two teams were divided into eight groups of four teams each. The first two will qualify for the pre-quarter-finals.
Onmanorama picks five group matches to watch in this edition.
France vs Denmark (November 26, 9:30 p.m. IST)
The defending champions meet Denmark in their second Group D game. France meet Australia and the Danes face Tunisia in their first encounters. France is ranked No. 4 while Denmark is ranked tenth. The winners are likely to be at the top of the group.
The Blues will want to avenge their loss to the Danes in the Nations League recently. Denmark eliminated France from the semi-final with a 2-0 victory and Croatia qualified for the last four of the group. The Danes had reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020. Didier Deschamps’ France have been far from impressive lately. But the quality of its players is beyond doubt and this duel promises to be exciting.
Spain vs Germany (28 November, 00:30 IST)
The two heavyweights go head-to-head in this highly anticipated Group E fixture. Germany kick off their campaign against Japan while Spain meet Costa Rica in their opener. Spain is No. 7 in the FIFA rankings, while Germany is in eleventh place. Spain booked their place in the Nations League semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over Portugal, while Germany failed to qualify from a group consisting of Italy, England and Hungary.
The Germans will be eager to bounce back from failing to make it past the Russia 2018 group stage and losing to England in the Euro 2020 pre-quarter-finals. Spain have a talented squad of players and are among the favorites this time.
Portugal vs Uruguay (29 November, 00:30 IST)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez will take center stage in this Group H encounter. With Ghana and South Korea being the other teams in the group, there are no easy matches. Portugal meet Ghana in their opener while Uruguay kick off their campaign against the Koreans.
Edinson Cavani’s two goals sent the Portuguese through to the quarter-finals in Russia. Ronaldo and Co. will seek revenge in Qatar. Portugal are ranked ninth while the Uruguayans sit in 14th place in the FIFA rankings.
Iran vs USA (November 30, 00:30 IST)
This Group B game is significant both from a sporting point of view and the political sensitivities involved. The two countries, who have a strained relationship, meet in their last group game. England and Wales are the other teams in the group.
Iran had beaten the United States 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup. The Americans are ranked 16th while the Iranians are ranked 20th. There’s not much to choose between the two and the outcome will be of utmost importance to both countries whether or not they qualify for the knockout stage.
Croatia vs Belgium (December 1, 8:30 p.m. IST)
The outcome of this marquee clash may well decide who tops Group F, which also includes Morocco and Canada. The two powerhouses meet in their final group game. Croatia finished second in 2018, while the Belgians secured the best third place ever. Belgium are ranked second against the Croats in 12th place.