Bengaluru, June 14: The FIFA World Cup 2018 is a few hours away and all the qualified nations have already kicked off their preparations for the biggest football extravaganza, which will be held in Russia from June 14-July 15.
In this edition of the FIFA World Cup, 32 countries have made the cut to the final stages and all of them have been pooled into eight groups of four each. The top two from each group qualify for the knockouts (Round of 16) until one winner emerges at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15.
Germany won the World Cup 2014 that was hosted by Brazil and will be hopeful of retaining their title and they do have the squad capable of doing that with Joachim Leow still in charge of the world champions.
France, Belgium, Brazil and Spain will be among the favourites as well while there are a number of potential dark horses this time out with the likes of England, Portugal, Croatia and a few more.
The opening game on June 14 will see hosts Russia host Saudi Arabia in Group A.
In this article, we will take a look at three most exciting fixtures in the group stage of FIFA World Cup 2018:
Spain vs Portugal
The second day will see two of the biggest rivals in Europe Spain and Portugal facing each other in one of the most anticipating games of the World Cup.
Spain shocked the world yesterday by sacking Julen Lopetegui just one day ahead of the World Cup after it was announced that he will join Real Madrid after the World Cup.
This will surely be a major advantage to Portugal as Spain has to adapt to new manager Fernando Hierro in almost no time and that will be a major blow to the World Cup winners in 2010.
England vs Belgium
England and Belgium have been drawn together in Group G along with Tunisia and Panama and it will be a surprise if both England and Belgium fail to qualify from the group.
However, both of them will like to finish as the group winners to avoid tough fixtures in the round of 16 and later on. Therefore, the England vs Belgium encounter will be a game worth waiting for.
Belgium certainly has a better squad when compared to England but England have a greater experience which might give them an edge.
Senegal vs Colombia
Group H is probably the most evenly matched group this time around in the World Cup with Senegal, Colombia, Poland and Japan. Any of the two sides can qualify from this group and it might very well go down to the wire.
Senegal and Colombia have an edge over both Japan and Poland thanks to their experience at the global stage and are favourites to progress from the group.
Therefore, the game between Senegal and Colombia will be an all-important one.