FIFA World Cup 2018: 5 matches to look forward to in the group stage
The countdown to the FIFA World Cup 2018 has begun and the fans around the globe are getting ready to witness the best national football teams taking on each other.
But the commencement of the championship doesn't lead to the glamorous matches just like that. This is because the top-ranked teams usually play each other in the knockout stages of the competition, while the group stages are just a way to weed out the weak.
Fortunately, every tournament has a few heavyweight teams drawn in the same group to begin the fireworks early. Although these are not knock out games, they lack nothing in seriousness. The results of these matches will decide who tops the group and effectively, who they play in the knock out stages.
Here's a look at the top 5 group-stage matches of the FIFA World Cup 2018:
#1 Portugal vs Spain
15 June, 18:00 UTC
Two of the top ten teams in world football will face each other in the group stage matches - the reigning Euro Cup champions, Portugal and the former World champions, Spain. They are drawn in Group B, along with Morocco and Iran.
It could be one of the matches of the tournament, when they take on each other on match day one. The match is scheduled to kick off at 9 PM local time on June 15. As the runner up of their group have to play the winners of Group A - which includes Uruguay and the hosts Russia, both the teams will look to come out on top.
Portugal, who come under the leadership of the five times Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, will be high in confidence after their European championship glory. They are currently ranked third in the FIFA rankings.
Spain has cruised through their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, only being briefly troubled by Italy but still finishing the qualifiers in style to ensure that they will be ready to challenge the game's elite in Russia. They are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA world rankings and it is fair to expect fireworks when these superpowers battle it out.