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Everything you need to know about this summer’s football tournament in Russia

World Cup fever is set to grip the nation in just a few weeks’ time, with 32 countries preparing to battle it out for the most prestigious accolade in football.

Will the England team channel the World Cup-winning side of 1966 and bring the trophy home once more? Or will the holders Germany secure back-to-back tournament success.

Whatever happens in Russia, here is everything you need to know about the month of football ahead.

:: When does it all kick off?

After an over-the-top opening ceremony, Russia will get the tournament underway at 4pm on 14 June when they play Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

England’s first game takes place on 18 June at 7pm against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena.

The group stages are expected to finish by 28 June, with the last 16 and knockout stages starting on 30 June.

The final is set to take place on 15 July at 4pm at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Sky Bet has made Brazil joint favourites with Germany to win the cup
Image:
Sky Bet has made Brazil joint favourites with Germany to win the cup

:: Group stage fixtures

14 June: Russia v Saudi Arabia at 4pm (Luzhniki).

15 June: Egypt v Uruguay at 1pm (Ekaterinburg), Morocco v Iran at 4pm (St Petersburg) and Portugal v Spain at 7pm (Sochi).

16 June: France v Australia at 11am (Kazan), Argentina v Iceland at 2pm (Moscow), Peru v Denmark at 5pm (Saransk) and Croatia v Nigeria at 8pm (Kaliningrad).

17 June: Costa Rica v Serbia at 1pm (Samara), Germany v Mexico at 4pm (Luzhniki) and Brazil v Switzerland at 7pm (Rostov-on-Don).

18 June: Sweden v South Korea at 1pm (Nizhny Novgorod), Belgium v Panama at 4pm (Sochi) and Tunisia v England at 7pm (Volgograd).

19 June: Colombia v Japan at 1pm (Saransk), Poland v Senegal at 4pm (Moscow) and Russia v Egypt at 7pm (St Petersburg).

20 June: Portugal v Morocco at 1pm (Luzhniki), Uruguay v Saudi Arabia at 4pm (Rostov-on-Don) and Iran v Spain at 7pm (Kazan).

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal v Austria, Euro 2016
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Cristiano Ronaldo will be relishing the chance to take home Portugal’s first World Cup

21 June: Denmark v Australia at 1pm (Samara), France v Peru at 4pm (Ekaterinburg) and Argentina v Croatia at 7pm (Nizhny Novgorod).

22 June: Brazil v Costa Rica at 1pm (St Petersburg), Nigeria v Iceland at 4pm (Volgograd) and Serbia v Switzerland at 7pm (Kaliningrad).

23 June: Belgium v Tunisia at 1pm (Moscow), South Korea v Mexico at 4pm (Rostov-on-Don) and Germany v Sweden at 7pm (Sochi).

24 June: England v Panama at 1pm (Nizhny Novgorod), Japan v Senegal at 4pm (Ekaterinburg) and Poland v Colombia at 7pm (Kazan).

25 June: Uruguay v Russia at 3pm (Samara), Saudi Arabia v Egypt at 3pm (Volgograd), Spain v Morocco at 7pm (Kaliningrad) and Iran v Portugal at 7pm (Saransk).

26 June: Australia v Peru at 3pm (Sochi), Denmark v France Moscow at 3pm (Luzhniki), Nigeria v Argentina at 7pm (St Petersburg) and Iceland v Croatia at 7pm (Rostov-on-Don).

27 June: South Korea v Germany at 3pm (Kazan), Mexico v Sweden at 3pm (Ekaterinburg), Serbia v Brazil at 7pm (Moscow) and Switzerland v Costa Rica at 7pm (Nizhny Novgorod).

28 June: Japan v Poland at 3pm (Volgograd), Senegal v Colombia at 3pm (Samara), Panama v Tunisia at 7pm (Saransk) and England v Belgium at 7pm (Kaliningrad).

:: Who’s playing?








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Video:
England drawn with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia

Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay

Players to watch out for: Krasnodar striker Fyodor Smolov (Russia), Al-Nassr striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Saudi Arabia), Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Barcelona forward Luis Suarez (Uruguay).

Uruguay are the only previous winners in the group after they took the title in 1930 and 1950.

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran

Players to watch out for: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Real Madrid midfielder Isco (Spain), Juventus centre back Medhi Benatia (Morocco) and Rubin Kazan forward Sardar Azmoun (Iran).

Spain are the only previous winners, taking the title in 2010.

Group C: France, Australia, Peru and Denmark

Players to watch out for: Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann (France), Huddersfield Town midfielder Aaron Mooy (Australia), Lokomotiv Moscow forward Jefferson Farfan (Peru) and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen (Denmark).

France previously won the World Cup when they hosted the tournament in 1998.

Argentina's Lionel Messi shoots to score against Uruguay during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier football match between Argentina and Uruguay in Mendoza,
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Eyes will be on Lionel Messi as he looks for international silverware

Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria

Players to watch out for: Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (Argentina), Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson (Iceland), Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric (Croatia) and Chelsea winger Victor Moses (Nigeria).

Argentina is the only previous winner, taking the trophy home twice before in 1978 and 1986.

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia

Players to watch out for: Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar (Brazil), Stoke City winger Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) and Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic (Serbia).

Brazil are the most successful team historically, winning the World Cup an incredible five times in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea

Players to watch out for: Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos (Germany), West Ham United striker Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Krasnodar defender Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) and Tottenham Hotspur winger Son Heung-min (South Korea).

Germany are the only previous World Cup champions in the group with four titles under their belt as winners in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014.

Could Harry Kane propel the England team?
Image:
Could Harry Kane propel the England team?

Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England

Players to watch out for: Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Huachipato forward Gabriel Torres (Panama), Sunderland midfielder Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) and Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane (England).

The only previous winners in this group are England.

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan

Players to watch out for: Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Liverpool forward Sadio Mane (Senegal), Monaco striker Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa (Japan).

None of the teams in Group H have won the World Cup before.

:: Who will win?

Sky Bet places Germany and Brazil as joint favourites to take the trophy home at 9/2, but England does have an outside chance with odds for a repeat of 1966 at 16/1.

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