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FILE - In this Sunday, July 13, 2014 file photo, German players reach out to touch the trophy after the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Morocco will bid to host the 2026 World Cup, giving a joint bid from North America some competition. The Morocco Football Federation announced its intention to bid on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 the deadline for countries to express their interest. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Hosts Russia kick off the 2018 FIFA World Cup against Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.

It may not be the most glamorous tie of the competition but the fixtures follow thick and fast, and Friday’s clash between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Spain will be hotly anticipated.

Lionel Messi’s Argentina are in action on Saturday as they open their campaign against Iceland, while holders Germany face Mexico on Sunday and Brazil take on Switzerland.

Here’s a look at all the fixtures and kick-off times ahead of Thursday’s opening game.

Thursday, June 14

Russia vs. Saudi Arabia (Group A): 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Friday, June 15

Egypt vs. Uruguay (Group A): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Morocco vs. Iran (Group B): 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Portugal vs. Spain (Group B): 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

       

Saturday, June 16

France vs. Australia (Group C): 11 a.m. BST/6 a.m. ET

Argentina vs. Iceland (Group D): 2 p.m. BST/9 a.m. ET

Peru vs. Denmark (Group C): 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET

Croatia vs. Nigeria (Group D): 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET

       

Sunday, June 17

Costa Rica vs. Serbia (Group E): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Germany vs. Mexico (Group F)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Brazil vs. Switzerland (Group E)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

Monday, June 18

Sweden vs. South Korea (Group F): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Belgium vs. Panama (Group G)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Tunisia vs. England (Group G)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

Tuesday, June 19

Colombia vs. Japan (Group H): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Poland vs. Senegal (Group H): 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Russia vs. Egypt (Group A)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

   

Wednesday, June 20

Portugal vs. Morocco (Group B): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia (Group A)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Iran vs. Spain (Group B): 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

       

Thursday, June 21

Denmark vs. Australia (Group C): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

France vs. Peru (Group C)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Argentina vs. Croatia (Group D)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

Friday, June 22

Brazil vs. Costa Rica (Group E): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Nigeria vs. Iceland (Group D)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Serbia vs. Switzerland (Group E)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET

Saturday, June 23

Belgium vs. Tunisia (Group G): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

South Korea vs. Mexico (Group F)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Germany vs. Sweden (Group F)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

      

Sunday, June 24

England vs. Panama (Group G): 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET

Japan vs. Senegal (Group H)4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET

Poland vs. Colombia (Group H)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Monday, June 25

Uruguay vs. Russia (Group A): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt (Group A): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET 

Spain vs. Morocco (Group B)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Iran vs. Portugal (Group B)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Tuesday, June 26

Denmark vs. France (Group C): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Australia vs. Peru (Group C): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Nigeria vs. Argentina (Group D)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Iceland vs. Croatia (Group D)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Wednesday, June 27

South Korea vs. Germany (Group F): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Mexico vs. Sweden (Group F): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Serbia vs. Brazil (Group E)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Switzerland vs. Costa Rica (Group E)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Thursday, June 28

Japan vs. Poland (Group H): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Senegal vs. Colombia (Group H): 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

England vs. Belgium (Group G)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Panama vs. Tunisia (Group G)7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET     

Last 16 Fixtures

Saturday, June 30: 

Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET   

Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

    

Sunday, July 1

Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET  

Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Monday, July 2

Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET  

Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET   

Tuesday, July 3

Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET  

Group H winner vs. Group G runner-up7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET  

Quarter-final Schedule

Friday, July 6

Winner match 49 vs. Winner match 50: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET  

Winner match 53 vs. Winner match 54: 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET  

Saturday, July 7

Winner match 55 vs. Winner match 56: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET  

Winner match 51 vs. Winner match 527 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET  

         

Semi-final Schedule

Tuesday, July 10

Winner match 57 vs. Winner match 58: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET

Wednesday, July 11

Winner match 59 vs. Winner match 607 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET  

      

Third-place play-off

Saturday, July 14 at 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET  

      

Final

Sunday, July 15 at 8 p.m. BST/3p.m. ET  

All fixtures courtesy of the tournament’s official website.

Russia should be confident of victory in the opening game against Saudia Arabia as no host nation has ever lost their first match, per FIFA World Cup:

The game appears to be Russia’s easiest of the group stages, as they will also face Egypt and Uruguay in Group A. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah will be the big threat for Egypt after he finished the Premier League season as the division’s top scorer with 32 goals.

Uruguay also possess a talented squad, with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani the most high-profile members of their team.

The winners of the tournament are unlikely to come from Group A, but there are several strong contenders to lift the trophy.

CIES Football Observatory has predicted Spain will win ahead of Brazil, France and Germany, as shown by Nick Harris at Sporting Intelligence:

Spain have not lifted the trophy since 2010 but can boast plenty of World Cup-winning experience in their squad. Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos were all part of the team in 2010, and they know exactly what it takes to win the competition.

Germany will be bidding to retain the title they won in Brazil in 2014. Manager Joachim Low has a strong squad to choose from:

Yet the squad with the most flair surely belongs to Brazil. Manager Tite can call upon Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Douglas Costa, and they will fancy their chances.

The team cruised through qualification and may feel they have something to prove after they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals in 2014 in Belo Horizonte.

Former Brazil international Robinho said the Selecao can go all the way, as shown by Goal:

Brazil look real contenders going into the tournament, and with Neymar leading the charge, they should go far. Germany and Spain have the quality and experience to also go for glory, while an Argentina team inspired by Messi cannot be discounted.

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