The Group Stage
Whilst the group stage draw has been made there are still some qualifying play-off fixtures to be finalised to complete the final 32 team line-up. These 32 teams are split into eight groups of four teams and the tournament will have 12 consecutive days of high-quality group stage footballing entertainment. Each team in their respective group will play each other once over 90 minutes with the top two teams of each group progressing to the second round.
Group A Fixtures
Monday 21 November: Senegal v Netherlands (10:00) and Qatar v Ecuador (16:00)
Friday 25 November: Qatar v Senegal (13:00) and Netherlands v Ecuador (16:00)
Tuesday 29 November: Ecuador v Senegal (15:00) and Qatar v Netherlands (15:00)
A win for either team in the fantastic opening match between Senegal and Netherlands may determine who will go on to win the group. Netherlands is ranked 10th in the rankings but Senegal know how to win tournaments having recently been crowned African Nations Champions. Ecuador and Qatar will have to be at their best to compete and home advantage could help spur on the host nation.
Group B Fixtures
Monday 21 November: England v Iran (13:00) and USA v Scotland/Wales/Ukraine (19:00)
Friday 25 November: Iran v Scotland/Wales/Ukraine (10:00) and USA v England (19:00)
Tuesday 29 November: England v Scotland/Wales/Ukraine (19:00) and Iran v USA (19:00)
The final place in this group will be decided after Scotland play Ukraine where the winner will go on to play Wales in the play-off final. The play-off final is expected to take place before the end of June. England may be considered favourites to win the group but have not played against Iran before nor have they beaten USA in a world cup game. The potential of a home nations game with England playing Scotland or Wales, if Ukraine don’t qualify, will also provide that extra edge to the group. If Ukraine qualify, they will surely play their hearts out for the people of their nation.
Group C Fixtures
Tuesday 22 November: Saudi Arabia v Argentina (10:00) and Poland v Mexico (16:00)
Saturday 26 November: Saudi Arabia v Poland (13:00) and Mexico v Argentina (19:00)
Wednesday 30 November: Argentina v Poland (15:00) and Mexico v Saudi Arabia (15:00)
Argentina will have the chance to get points on the board and a confidence boosting win if they can beat Saudi Arabia in their opening match. Mexico and Poland are certainly no mugs and help to make this group look tough on paper. Mexico v Argentina will surely be one of the matches to watch in Group C.
Group D Fixtures
Tuesday 22 November: Tunisia v Denmark (13:00) and UAE/Australia/Peru v France (19:00)
Saturday 26 November: UAE/Australia/Peru v Tunisia (10:00) and Denmark v France (16:00)
Wednesday 30 November: France v Tunisia (19:00) and Denmark v UAE/Australia/Peru (19:00)
The final place in the group will be decided after the winner of Australia and UAE play Peru. France and Denmark will be tipped to progress but that should not mean writing off Peru nor the winner of the play offs.
Group E Fixtures
Wednesday 23 November: Japan v Germany (13:00) and Costa Rica/New Zealand v Spain (16:00)
Sunday 27 November: Costa Rica/New Zealand v Japan (10:00) and Germany v Spain (19:00)
Thursday 01 December: Spain v Japan (19:00) and Germany v Costa Rica/New Zealand (19:00)
Can New Zealand create an upset and beat Costa Rica in the play off to become the lowest ranked nation in the tournament and finalise the group? That said Germany and Spain will be one of the most viewed matches during the group stages! Difficult to see how these two teams will not progress but can Japan create a great upset?
Group F Fixtures
Wednesday 23 November: Croatia v Morocco (10:00) and Canada v Belgium (16:00)
Sunday 27 November: Morocco v Belgium (13:00) and Canada v Croatia (16:00)
Thursday 01 December: Belgium v Croatia (15:00) and Morocco v Canada (15:00)
Belgium has a star-studded team and will prove hard to beat and Croatia did magnificently as runners up in the 2018 world cup. Even though the form of Belgium has been stuttering a little and Croatia’s Modric is ageing, can Morocco or Canada create an upset?
Group G Fixtures
Thursday 24 November: Cameroon v Switzerland (10:00) and Serbia v Brazil (19:00)
Monday 28 November: Serbia v Cameroon (10:00) and Switzerland v Brazil (16:00)
Friday 02 December: Brazil v Cameroon (19:00) and Switzerland v Serbia (19:00)
Winners of the world cup and ranked number one in the rankings will you dare bet against Brazil? The group stage appears a safe passage but Switzerland are no push overs and Cameroon has proved a difficult opposition in prior tournaments. The Serbs will not be a team to sit back and in Mitrovic they have a proven goal scorer with 70 caps and 44 goals for his national team.
Group H Fixtures
Thursday 24 November: South Korea v Uruguay (13:00) and Ghana v Portugal (16:00)
Monday 28 November: Ghana v South Korea (13:00) and Uruguay v Portugal (19:00)
Friday 02 December: Portugal v South Korea (15:00) and Uruguay v Ghana (15:00)
This group can potentially create an upset. Portugal versus Uruguay is the fixture that springs to mind and will they be favourites to go on to last 16.
Second Round, Round of 16
Once the group stages are complete and the top two teams of each group are determined the World Cup tournament enters the knockout phase. The winner of one group will play the runner up from another group. If the game ends in a draw after 90 minutes, the match has an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Still no winner and the nail-biting excitement of penalties decides the fate of the two teams. Let’s check the fixture schedule.
Saturday 3 December: Group A winners v Group B runners-up (15:00) Game 49
Group C winners v Group D runners-up (19:00) Game 50
Sunday 4 December: Group D winners v Group C runners-up (15:00) Game 51
Group B winners v Group A runners-up (19:00) Game 52
Monday 5 December: Group E winners v Group F runners-up (15:00) Game 53
Group G winners v Group H runners-up (15:00) Game 54
Tuesday 6 December: Group F winners v Group E runners-up (15:00) Game 55
Group H winners v Group G runners-up (19:00) Game 56
There will be some mouth-watering ties in the second round for example, England v Senegal or Germany or Spain v Belgium. However, there can always be a surprise underdog that can make it through to the last 16, just remember how Croatia did in the last World Cup when they made it to the final!
A two-day break from fixtures and it may be needed after 16 days of scintillating World Cup football. With things heating up even more, the quarter finals are scheduled as follows:
Friday 9 December: Winner game 53 v winner game 54 (15:00) Game 57
Winner game 49 v winner game 50 (19:00) Game 58
Saturday 10 December: Winner game 55 v winner game 56 (15:00) Game 59
Winner game 51 v winner game 52 (19:00) Game 60
A further two-day break will allow the successful teams to gather themselves in search of qualification for the biggest football game on earth, the World Cup Final!
Tuesday 13 December: Winner game 57 v winner game 58 (19:00) Game 61
Wednesday 14 December: Winner game 59 v winner game 60 (19:00) Game 62
Third Place Play-Off
After the heartbreak of losing in the semi-final there is still the chance to finish in third place.
Saturday 17 December: Loser game 61 v loser game 62 (15:00)
Two teams will battle it out to go down in history in the most famous football match in the world.
Sunday 18 December: Winner game 61 v winner game 62 (15:00)
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