The World Cup is just around the corner, and soccer fans are already making their guesses as to who will lift the famous trophy this summer in Russia. There are a number of early favorites for the title, including France and Germany, and with so many countries looking sharp in the qualifying rounds, expect a few more in the mix once the knock-out stages begin. But first, there’s the small matter of the group matches to get through. With an astonishing 48 group stage matches scheduled, it’s tough to narrow down the must-see games, as a start, we think you’ll agree that the following are top of the table.
Here’s our pick of the best group stage games to watch at the 2018 World Cup:
Brazil vs Switzerland
It wouldn’t be a World Cup without five-time winners Brazil. They’ve appeared in every World Cup since the competition began, and consistently they’ve been one of the major teams to beat. This year, their opening match is against Switzerland, a team that proved their grit by winning their place in the tournament after scoring a winning penalty against Northern Ireland in Belfast. But will this grit be enough against the skill of Brazil? Whatever happens, this will be a keenly fought and absorbing contest.
Sunday, June 17th Rostov Arena Rostov-on-Don 7 pm GMT
France vs Denmark
France may be one of the favorites, but we’d guess they’ll be nervous enough of their final group game against Denmark, a team they have played many times before. France has won the last three friendlies against Denmark, but notably, the countries last met in a major tournament in the 2002 World Cup, and in that match, Denmark beat France 2-0. This year, Denmark could stand out as a team to watch thanks to Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen, who scored a hat-trick against the Republic of Ireland to earn Denmark their spot at the World Cup this year.
Tuesday, June 26th Luzhniki Stadium Moscow 3 pm GMT
Portugal vs Spain
Neighboring countries Portugal and Spain are big players in European soccer, and not surprisingly, they’re fiercely competitive with each other. The two teams have played numerous friendlies over the years, but it will be interesting to see how they perform against each other in their first competitive match since 2012, which saw Spain win on penalties. It is rumoured that this could be legendary Portugal player Ronaldo’s last attempt to win a World Cup and if that isn’t a motivator to go out and win, we don’t know what is.
Friday, June 15th Fisht Stadium Sochi 7 pm GMT
Germany vs Mexico
Reigning champions Germany are entering this year’s competition on a high after qualifying for the World Cup with a perfect winning streak of 10 out of 10 games, and there’s no doubt that they’ll be fighting hard to defend their title. On the other end of the scale, Mexico have had a tough journey and with Group F full of strong teams, their first match with Germany could be the most gruelling considering Germany’s current winning streak. Will Mexico be the ones to put an end to it or will Germany earn their spot as the ones to watch?
Sunday, June 17th Luzhniki Stadium Moscow 4 pm GMT
Iceland vs Argentina
This may be Iceland’s first appearance in the World Cup, but already they look set to be one of the most likely teams to cause an upset. Managed by ex-dentist Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland proved their worth after winning an impressive 2-0 match against Kosovo in Russia to qualify for the tournament. They may be the smallest country to ever take part in the World Cup, but Iceland has a number of excellent but underrated players on their team who will be keen to make a name for themselves against some of the best opposition in the world. Their opening group game sees them pitted against a true great, Lionel Messi of Argentina, and you can be sure Iceland will be looking to impress.
Saturday, June 16th Spartak Stadium Moscow 2 pm GMT
Which games are you looking forward to watching the most? Tweet us @Roadtripsinc and let us know. In the meantime, if you’re a World Cup rookie, you can read our Ultimate Guide to the World Cup here to get you up to speed in time for kickoff.