The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Doha on November 20. The hosts Qatar take on Ecuador in the inaugural match. Thirty-two teams have been divided into eight groups of four teams each. The top two will advance to the pre-quarterfinals.
Onmanorama picks five group games to watch out for in this edition.
France vs Denmark (November 26, 9.30 pm IST)
The defending champions meet Denmark in their second Group D game. France meet Australia and the Danes clash with Tunisia in their opening encounters. France are ranked No. 4 while Denmark are placed tenth. The winners are likely to top the group.
Les Bleus will be keen to avenge their loss to the Danes in the Nations League recently. Denmark had knocked France out of the semifinal race with a 2-0 victory and Croatia qualified for the last four from the group. The Danes had made it to the semifinals of Euro 2020. Didier Deschamps' France have been far from impressive in recent times. But there is no doubting the quality of his players and this duel promises to be an exciting one.
Spain vs Germany (November 28, 12.30 am IST)
The two heavyweights go head to head in this much-anticipated Group E game. Germany begin their campaign against Japan while Spain meet Costa Rica in their opener. Spain are No. 7 in the FIFA rankings, while Germany are in the eleventh spot. Spain booked their place in the semifinals of the Nations League with a 1-0 win over Portugal, while Germany failed to advance from a group consisting of Italy, England and Hungary.
The Germans will be eager to bounce back after failing to get past the group stage at Russia 2018 and losing to England in the pre-quarterfinals of Euro 2020. Spain have a talented bunch of players and are one of the favourites this time around.
Portugal vs Uruguay (November 29, 12.30 am IST)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez will hog the centre stage in this Group H encounter. With Ghana and South Korea being the other teams in the group there are no easy games. Portugal meet Ghana in their opening match while Uruguay get their campaign underway against the Koreans.
Edinson Cavani's twin goals had sent the Portuguese packing in the pre-quarterfinals in Russia. Ronaldo and Co. will be eyeing revenge in Qatar. Portugal are placed ninth while the Uruguayans occupy the 14th spot in the FIFA rankings.
Iran vs USA (November 30, 12.30 am IST)
This Group B game assumes significance both from a sporting point and from the political sensitivities involved. The two countries, who have a strained relationship, meet in their final group match. England and Wales are the other teams in the group.
Iran had beaten USA 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup. The Americans are ranked 16th while the Iranians are placed 20th. There is nothing much to choose between the two and the result will be of utmost importance to both countries irrespective of whether they advance to the knockout phase.
Croatia vs Belgium (December 1, 8.30 pm IST)
The outcome of this marquee clash could well decide who tops Group F, which also features Morocco and Canada. The two powerhouses meet in their final group match. Croatia finished runner-up in 2018, while the Belgians earned a best-ever third. Belgium are ranked second as opposed to the Croats in 12th place.