5 Matchups to Watch Out For in the World Cup Group Stages

The greatest spectacle in all of sport is nearly upon us. In just a matter of days the World Cup is set to begin in Moscow when host nation Russia entertains Saudi Arabia on June 14. After years of scandal, international intrigue, and four seasons of grueling qualification, it’s almost time to set that all aside and focus on a month-and-a-half of the greatest soccer the world has to offer. And to get you even more revved up in anticipation, here are five matchups to mark in your calendar during the group stage of this year’s tournament.

Portugal vs Spain –– Fri. 6/15.

The battle for the Iberian peninsula is sure to be an entertaining one. 2010 World-Champions Spain face reigning European Champions, and “noisy neighbors,” Portugal in what might just be the highest profile match of the first round. Add of course the fact that this World Cup will likely be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last chance to shine on the world stage for his national team, and you’ve got one belter of a game brewing.

Argentina vs Iceland –– Sat. 6/16

The might of Lionel Messi pitted against the smallest nation ever to participate in a World Cup. What could be more intriguing? It’s easy to discount Iceland in this encounter, but the World-Cup newcomers have already showed themselves to be more resilient than any neutral observer could’ve predicted. Watch out for this one.

Germany vs Mexico –– Sun. 6/17

Mexico seemingly need the help of the supernatural to break through their round-of-sixteen curse. (Though, rather than resorting to any superstitious curse-breaking methods, they’ll be better served finding a sound orthopedic doctor to tend to injured winger Andres Guardado.) Indeed, six times in a row the Mexicans have bowed out just before the quarterfinals at the World Cup. However, if they’re not careful they could struggle to get out of a tough group that includes powerhouse Germany –– alongside capable squads in the form of Sweden and South Korea.

Egypt vs Uruguay –– Fri. 6/15

The one question on the mind of every Egyptian –– and football fan in the world –– come the day of Friday, June fifteenth is sure to be this one: will he play? “He” of course is none other than Mohamed Salah, one of the finest footballers on the planet. If he’s deemed fit, he could provide a lightning spark for his national team. If not, it’s hard to see a way forward for Egypt.

England vs Belgium –– Thurs. 6/28

This clash –– slated for the final round of fixtures in Group G –– sees England take on Belgium in a game that will likely hold big implications for the loser. Both Belgium and England have worn the label of “underachiever,” (or alternatively “overrated” if you’re feeling vindictive) as of late, and this game might doom one of them to another ignominious early exit. Whatever the situation, it’s worth watching this space when gametime arrives.