The draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was announced on Friday, and with it, the full list of fixtures for world football’s showpiece event.
Hosts Russia will kick off the tournament on Thursday, June 14, taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. A month and a day later, two teams will meet at the same stadium for the glory of lifting the famous Jules Rimet trophy.
Here’s a look at the full list of fixtures for the tournament.
Thursday, June 14
7PM Russia v Saudi Arabia, Moscow (Luzhniki)
Friday, June 15
4PM Egypt v Uruguay, Yekaterinburg
7PM Morocco v Iran, Saint Petersburg
10PM Portugal v Spain, Sochi
Saturday, June 16
2PM France v Australia, Kazan
5PM Argentina v Iceland, Moscow (Spartak)
9PM Peru v Denmark, Saransk
11PM Croatia v Nigeria, Kaliningrad
Sunday, June 17
4PM Costa Rica v Serbia, Samara
7PM Germany v Mexico, Moscow (Luzhniki)
10PM Brazil v Switzerland, Rostov-on-Don
Monday, June 18
4PM Sweden v South Korea, Nizhni Novgorod
7PM Belgium v Panama, Sochi
10PM Tunisia v England, Volgograd
Tuesday, June 19
4PM Poland v Senegal, Moscow (Spartak)
7PM Colombia v Japan, Saransk
10PM Russia v Egypt, Saint Petersburg
Wednesday, June 20
4PM Portugal v Morocco, Moscow (Luzhniki)
7PM Uruguay v Saudi Arabia, Rostov-on-Don
10PM Iran v Spain, Kazan
Thursday, June 21
4PM France v Peru, Yekaterinburg
7PM Denmark v Australia, Samara
10PM Argentina v Croatia, Nizhni Novgorod
Friday, June 22
4PM Brazil v Costa Rica, Saint Petersburg
7PM Nigeria v Iceland, Volgograd
10PM Serbia v Switzerland, Kaliningrad
Saturday, June 23
4PM Belgium v Tunisia, Moscow (Spartak)
7PM Germany v Sweden, Sochi
10PM South Korea v Mexico, Rostov-on-Don
Sunday, June 24
4PM England v Panama, Nizhni Novgorod
7PM Japan v Senegal, Yekaterinburg
10PM Poland v Colombia, Kazan
Monday, June 25
6PM Saudi Arabia v Egypt, Volgograd
6PM Uruguay v Russia, Samara
10PM Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad
10PM Iran v Portugal, Saransk
Tuesday, June 26
6PM Denmark v France, Moscow (Luzhniki)
6PM Australia v Peru, Sochi
10PM Nigeria v Argentina, Saint Petersburg
10PM Iceland v Croatia, Rostov-on-Don
Wednesday, June 27
6PM South Korea v Germany, Kazan
6PM Mexico v Sweden, Yekaterinburg
10PM Serbia v Brazil, Moscow (Spartak)
10PM Switzerland v Costa Rica, Nizhni Novgorod
Thursday, June 28
6PM Japan v Poland, Volgograd
6PM Senegal v Colombia, Samara
10PM England v Belgium, Kaliningrad
10PM Panama v Tunisia, Saransk
ROUND OF 16
Saturday, June 30
6PM Group C winners v Group D runners-up, Kazan (R1)
10PM Group A winners v Group B runners-up, Sochi (R2)
Sunday, July 1
6PM Group B winners v Group A runners-up, Moscow (Luzhniki) (R5)
10PM Group D winners v Group C runners-up, Nizhni Novgorod (R6)
Monday, July 2
6PM Group E winners v Group F runners-up, Samara (R3)
10PM Group G winners v Group H runners-up, Rostov-on-Don (R4)
Tuesday, July 3
6PM Group F winners v Group E runners-up, Saint Petersburg (R7)
10PM Group H winners v Group G runners-up, Moscow (Spartak) (R8)
Friday, July 6
6PM Winners of R1 v Winners of R2, Nizhni Novgorod (Q1)
10PM Winners of R3 v Winners of R4, Kazan (Q2)
Saturday, July 7
6PM Winners of R7 v Winner of R8, Samara (Q3)
10PM Winners of R5 v Winner of R6, Sochi (Q4)
Tuesday, July 10
10PM Winners of Q1 v Winners of Q2, Saint Petersburg
Wednesday, July 11
10PM Winners of Q3 v Winners of Q4, Moscow (Luzhniki)
Saturday, July 14
6PM Losers of S1 vs Losers of S2, Saint Petersburg
Sunday, July 15
7PM Winner of S1 vs Winners of S2, Moscow (Luzhniki)
Away from the painful soft rock, exhibition of soft power from omnipotent Russian President Vladimir Putin and Diego Maradona’s startling yellow bowtie, last night’s World Cup 2018 draw presented football’s pair of behemoths with the perfect platform to unleash a – potentially final – bid for the defining major honour which eludes them.
For the morbid who tuned in to witness a ‘Group of Death’, they leave disappointed.
Portugal and their resident superstar could not have hoped for a better way to build on Euro 2016’s unlikely victory. Argentina and Messi will aim to build momentum after a harrowing path to qualification and the residual disappointment from losing Brazil 2014’s final.
Ronaldo’s solipsistic personality will see him relish the challenge of facing Spain, his country of employment, in an intriguing opening Group B-fixture.
Welcoming clashes against the defensively-diligent pair of Morocco and former mentor Carlos Queiroz’s Iran then follow, prior to meeting opponents from a Group A which must rank as one of the weakest assembled in the modern history of the competition.
On the opposite side of the sport’s great schism, Messi will be feeling similarly confident. Iceland may have stunned a sorry England at the Euros but they remain substantial underdogs as the World Cup’s smallest-ever entrant by population size.
Croatia are a team full of artisans undergoing group therapy after the fractious reign of Ante Cacic and there will be no surprises against Nigeria. La Albiceleste have beaten them in all four previous finals matches.
To concentrate solely on this duo, yet again, is to be guilty of navel-gazing. A movement away from football’s interminable two-headed narrative could be upon us.
Messi will turn 31 before the opening stage winds down. Ronaldo has only two goals from nine La Liga appearances in 2017/18 and will be 33 when he steps foot in Russia.
Enter swashbuckling Brazil, a country whose wounds from the 7-1 ‘Mineirazo’ mauling by Germany have been healed by the inspirational Tite. An attack of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Paris Saint-Germain’s €222 million (Dh970.9m) Neymar demands success after they waltzed through South American qualifying.
England will dare to believe if Harry Kane forgets the trauma of Euro 2016 and France boast gluttonous depth. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba can place this competition in his thrall and there is no end to the excitement surrounding enfant precoce Kylian Mbappe.
Belgium do not appear the happiest of camps, yet in Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne they possess attackers gifted with the ability to wrought devastation upon any opponent.
This is all without mentioning holders Germany. Head coach Joachim Low was afforded the luxury of experimentation at last summer’s Confederations Cup and still won it.
Away from Die Mannschaft’s plethora of established names, Schalke attacking midfielder Leon Goretzka and jet-heeled RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner look poised to inherit Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez’s mantle as the World Cup’s breakout star.
The next generation are charging through. Watching whether Messi and Ronaldo can still set the pace will be this World Cup’s most intriguing storyline – on the pitch, at least.
Spain and Portugal have been paired in the same group, alongside Iran and Morocco, in an exciting draw for the 2018 tournament in Russia on Friday.
Neymar’s Brazil meanwhile will have to negotiate a group including Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.
Holders Germany will face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea as they try to retain the title for the first time since Brazil in 1962.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina team, which struggled to qualify, will play European debutants Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.
England must negotiate Kevin de Bruyne’s Belgium, surprise packages Panama and Tunisia after they were placed together in the draw in the Kremlin.
Spain’s other opponents in a tough-looking Group B are Morocco and Iran.
France will play Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C.
Host nation Russia will face Saudi Arabia in the tournament-opening match on June 14 in Moscow.
Five-time champions Brazil were paired with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E at the World Cup draw in Moscow on Friday.
The first game pits the Costa Ricans against Serbia in Samara on June 17, with Brazil kicking off against Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don the same day.