World Cup 2018 Predictions: Group-Stage Projections, Fixtures, Locations, More | Bleacher Report


This photo taken on Monday, April 23, 2018, shows an aerial view of the World Cup Luzhniki stadium with the Moscow River and the State University in the background in Moscow, Russia. The Luzhniki stadium will hold the 2018 World Cup final. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

Dmitry Serebryakov/Associated Press

The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday as teams finally get their campaigns under way after months of preparation.

The games will take place at 12 different venues spread across Russia, with the opening match and the final being played at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.

Here’s a look at the group fixtures and locations, followed by a closer peek at who might progress to the knockout stages.

        

Thursday, June 14

Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

     

Friday, June 15

Egypt vs. Uruguay, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Ekaterinburg Arena

Morocco vs. Iran, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Saint Petersburg Stadium

Portugal vs. Spain, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

       

Saturday, June 16

France vs. Australia, 11 a.m. BST/6 a.m. ET, Kazan Arena

Argentina vs. Iceland, 2 p.m. BST/9 a.m. ET, Spartak Stadium, Moscow

Denmark vs. Peru, 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET, Mordovia Arena, Saransk

Croatia vs. Nigeria, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET, Kaliningrad Stadium

      

Sunday, June 17

Costa Rica vs. Serbia, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET,  Samara Arena

Germany vs. Mexico, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Luzhniki Stadium

Brazil vs. Switzerland, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Rostov Arena

         

Monday, June 18

Sweden vs. South Korea, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Nizhny Novgorod

Belgium vs. Panama, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

Tunisia vs. England, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Volgograd Arena

     

Tuesday, June 19

Colombia vs. Japan, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Mordovia Arena, Saransk

Poland vs. Senegal,  4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Spartak Moscow Stadium

Russia vs. Egypt, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Saint Petersburg Stadium

   

Wednesday, June 20

Portugal vs. Morocco, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Luzhniki Stadium

Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Rostov Arena

Iran vs. Spain, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Kazan Arena

       

Thursday, June 21

Denmark vs. Australia, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Samara Arena

France vs. Peru, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Ekaterinburg Arena

Argentina vs. Croatia, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

      

Friday, June 22

Brazil vs. Costa Rica, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, St Petersburg Stadium

Nigeria vs. Iceland, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Volgograd Arena

Serbia vs. Switzerland, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Kaliningrad Stadium

       

Saturday, June 23

Belgium vs. Tunisia, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Spartak Stadium, Moscow

South Korea vs. Mexico, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Rostov Arena

Germany vs. Sweden, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

          

Sunday, June 24

England vs. Panama, 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

Japan vs. Senegal, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET, Ekaterinburg Arena

Poland vs. Colombia, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Kazan Arena

        

Monday, June 25

Uruguay vs. Russia, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Samara Arena

Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Volgograd Arena

Spain vs. Morocco, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Kaliningrad Stadium

Iran vs. Portugal, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Mordovia Arena, Saransk

         

Tuesday, June 26

Denmark vs. France, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Australia vs. Peru, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

Nigeria vs. Argentina, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Saint Petersburg Stadium

Iceland vs. Croatia, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Rostov Arena

       

Wednesday, June 27

South Korea vs. Germany, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Kazan Arena

Mexico vs. Sweden, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Ekaterinburg Arena

Serbia vs. Brazil, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Spartak Stadium, Moscow

Switzerland vs. Costa Rica, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

        

Thursday, June 28

Japan vs. Poland, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Volgograd Arena

Senegal vs. Colombia,  3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET, Samara Arena

England vs. Belgium, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Kaliningrad Stadium

Panama vs. Tunisia, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET, Mordovia Arena, Saransk

        

World Cup Group Projections

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Hosts Russia kick off the tournament against Saudi Arabia in Group A but may find it tough going progressing to the knockout stages.

Uruguay and Egypt are the other two sides in the group, and they will be favourites to go through as both teams possess real star quality in their squads.

Egypt can look to Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah for inspiration, while Uruguay have Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani headlining their attack. 

Suarez will have a point to prove after being sent home in disgrace for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at FIFA World Cup 2014.

He may need to keep an eye out for Russian defender Ilya Kutepov, who had a message for the striker ahead of the tournament, as shown by Marca:

There’s an early must-watch match in Group B as UEFA Euro 2016 champions Portugal take on Spain, who won the World Cup in 2010. The game will see Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo face his club captain Sergio Ramos as well as Barcelona rivals Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.

The game should mean Group B starts with a bang, and both teams will be expected to progress at the expense of Iran and Morocco.

Group C is more competitive, although the favourites are undoubtedly France. Didier Deschamps has a star-studded squad containing players such as Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele.

Les Bleus will be expected to top the group with Denmark, Peru and Australia battling it out for the runner-up spot.

Group D is “Group of Death” territory with Lionel Messi’s Argentina set to face Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland. The Albiceleste have a brilliant squad but struggled through qualification, and their hopes may rest on the Barcelona star lighting up the tournament.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi looks on as he sits on a ball during a training session of Argentina's national football team at the team's base camp in Bronnitsy, near Moscow, on June 11, 2018 ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Pho

JUAN MABROMATA/Getty Images

Croatia have players of the calibre of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barca’s Ivan Rakitic to call upon, while Iceland took Euro 2016 by storm as they reached the quarter-finals.

Nigeria are also tough opponents as they showed by breezing through qualification with just one defeat in six matches. They have players with plenty of Premier League experience, too, including Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Victor Moses, and Group D could see some big names going home early.

Group E is easier to call with Brazil one of the pre-tournament favourites after a brilliant qualifying campaign. They will look to Neymar to lead them to World Cup glory, but first they will need to escape a group containing Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland.

Neymar missed the end of the domestic season after undergoing foot surgery but has returned to action with two goals in two warm-up games against Croatia and Austria. His second was pretty special, as shown by Paris Saint-Germain:

Brazil should top the standings, but it could be a real battle for second place between the three other teams to make it to the knockout stages.

It’s a similar story in Group F where defending champions Germany should top the group. That leaves South Korea, Mexico and Sweden to fight it out for the runners-up spot behind Joachim Low’s men.

Group G sees Belgium and England face each other in an interesting matchup.

Belgium's forward Eden Hazard controls the ball during the international friendly football match between Belgium and Costa Rica at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on June 11, 2018. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)        (Photo credit should read EM

EMMANUEL DUNAND/Getty Images

The Red Devils squad contains many players who ply their trade in the Premier League, such as Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

Hazard has been in confident mood ahead of the tournament, as shown by Goal:

Both teams should have enough quality to make it through to the latter stages unless Panama and Tunisia can spring a few shocks. Given how England and Belgium have failed to live up to expectations at previous tournaments, that can not be discounted.

The final group is one of the most open as Colombia, Japan, Poland and Senegal meet.

Colombia put in an impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and have some real talent in their team.

James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez are all in Jose Pekerman’s squad and play for top European sides.

However, Poland can boast Bayern Munich goal machine Robert Lewandowski in their ranks, Senegal have Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Japan have Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.





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