From today (Thursday) football fans around the globe will be glued to television screens for a month-long goal feast featuring the 32 teams which have come through a lengthy qualifying process to reach the final phase of the competition in Russia.
The next two weeks feature mostly less competitive matches from the eight-group opening stage before the knock-out action ramps up the excitement as of Saturday, June 30 right through until the July 15 final.
A case in point is today’s uninspiring Group A opener between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, although some more palatable fare will be on offer as soon as tomorrow (Friday) when the all-Iberian showdown pitting Portugal against Spain should pre-determine the final Group B placing.
Another eagerly-awaited early showdown will be the clash between England and Belgium in a fortnight’s time, likely to decide who tops Group G.
Thereafter, given that other favourites progress as expected, Portugal could face either Uruguay or Egypt on the way to a quarter-final with France while England have Poland or Colombia as possible last-16 opponents before a possible meeting with ‘old enemy’ Germany. At the same time, Brazil are expected to be making their way through the draw without hiccups, but all this is just conjecture until the initial phase has unravelled. Enjoy!
By SKIP BANDELE