The World Cup draw was made in Moscow’s Kremlin Palace on Friday as the 2018 finals move ever closer.
Though for the most part the heavyweights that could have faced off in the group stage avoided each other, there are still some tantalising matches to look forward to.
Here we look at five of the most intriguing contests of the group stage.
Uruguay v Russia – June 25, Samara
If fans of the host nation were looking for a glamour tie in the group stage, then this is it.
Egypt are no pushovers but Russia’s meetings with the seven-time African champions and Saudi Arabia will be ones they will be expected to win. Should they do so, then a game in Samara against Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will carry the extra appeal of potentially deciding Group A.
Portugal v Spain – June 15, Sochi
This is not just a meeting of Iberian neighbours, but also one between two teams that have dominated the European Championship for over a decade. Each of the last four European finals have featured either Portugal or Spain, the latter winning in 2008 and 2012 before Cristiano Ronaldo finally lifted a major international trophy in France last year.
Their last encounter in a major tournament came in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, when Spain won on penalties. Portugal will have revenge on their mind in an opening Group B contest that is undoubtedly the game of the opening round.
Argentina v Iceland – June 16, Moscow
All of France was doing the thunder clap last year as Iceland made waves in their first major tournament appearance, stunning England en route to the quarter-finals before succumbing to the hosts and eventual beaten finalists.
Now the smallest country at the World Cup gets to face two-time winners Argentina at the Otkrytiye Arena. Having lost the 2014 showpiece in extra time, Lionel Messi and Argentina will need no added motivation after scraping into this year’s finals, however, with Iceland having held firm against Ronaldo and Portugal and beaten England, it is a challenge the Nordic side will relish.
Germany v Sweden – June 23, Sochi
The biggest intrigue concerning Sweden in the build-up to the finals will likely surround one man – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and whether he will come out of international retirement to play at the tournament.
The Manchester United striker’s inclusion would make Sweden a much more dangerous proposition but, after the Scandinavians dumped out Italy in a play-off to qualify, they should provide Germany’s sternest test of the group stage regardless of whether Ibrahimovic adds to the already significant star power at the competition.
Belgium v England – June 28, Kaliningrad
England’s golden generation famously failed to deliver on the big stage, and Belgium have so far had the same issue with a group of players seen as the best in their history.
Belgium suffered quarter-final defeats at the World Cup in 2014 and in last year’s European Championship, and this Group G finale in Kaliningrad between two sides packed with Premier League talent such as Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Harry Kane will likely decide who tops the group and avoids the winner of Group H.