Ecuador vs Qatar, Group A, Sunday, 11:00, FS1
Tune in here to watch the biggest tournament in the world kick off. Following their opening ceremony at Al Khor’s Al Bayt Stadium, Qatar have their best chances of winning in the group stage – the Netherlands and Senegal are the best teams in Group A – as well as their controversial role as hosts. Keep an eye out for 21-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Moises Caicedo.
Belgium v. Canada, Group F, Wednesday, 2pm, Fox
Belgium, who reached the semi-finals four years ago, are team no. Kevin De Bruyne, who plays for Manchester City in the English Premier League, is operating at his full strength; the same cannot be said for famous teammates Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. Canada, who finished first in the CONCACAF regional qualifiers, are aiming for a breakthrough in their first World Cup appearance since 1986. The Canadians play a fast-paced, rhythmic style led by star Alphonso Davies. special ailment?
Denmark vs France, Group D, Saturday, 11:00, FS1
France are the reigning World Cup champions, but injuries to midfield mainstays Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante have raised questions about the Blues’ repeat bid. The electrifying Kylian Mbappe leads the way, alongside striker Karim Benzema, who appears to be saving his finest goals for the bigger stages. Denmark are the dark horse who will win Group D if France falter. The Danes are led by midfielder Christian Eriksen, who returned to action after nearly dying on the pitch at last summer’s European Championships. Denmark recently beat France twice in the Nations League.
Germany vs Spain, Group E, November 27, 14:00, FS1
The main match in a popular choice for this tournament’s Group of Death – Group E also includes up-and-comers Japan and defense-tested Costa Rica – features a pair of European superpowers. Spain, semi-finalists of the last European Championships and now led by young talents Pedri and Gavi, will throw the ball on the pitch, but sometimes lack refinement. Germany have suffered an early exit in their most recent two majors but have the wealth of talent – many of whom play together at club level at Bayern Munich, including veteran striker Thomas Müller, midfielder Joshua Kimmich and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – to make a big hit.
Portugal vs Uruguay, Group H, November 28, 2pm, Fox
Cristiano Ronaldo will use plenty of oxygen around Portugal and, by extension, around Group H progress. But at his fifth World Cup, aged 37, he’s no longer a major influence. Portugal, number 9 in the world rankings, are the favorites but will have their hands full to emerge from a tight group H which also includes Ghana and South Korea. Here, in the middle of the round robin, Portugal face another pair of world-class scorers in the twilight: Uruguayans Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The South American nation’s golden generation qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2010 and the quarter-finals in 2018.
England vs Wales, Group B, 29 November, 2.00pm, FS1
If you’re busy watching the US take on Iran on Fox in their final group stage match during this timeslot, get it. But it should be a glittering showdown, even apart from the implications of looking at the scoreboard on whether the Americans exit Group B. There is the historical element for those countries close to the UK. There is the familiarity of most of these Premier League players. And there’s England’s ongoing attempt to end a tormented World Cup drought at the Knicks level that dates back to 1966. Imagine the drama if England needed a win here to escape the group.
Argentina vs Poland, Group C, November 30, 2pm, Fox*
Is this finally the year that the legendary Lionel Messi leads Argentina to World Cup glory? This pressure-filled question looms as the Argentines’ charged progress through a relatively favorable Group C – famous last words – and beyond. Argentina enters the World Cup undefeated in their last 35 games. Watch the clever Angel Di Maria on Messi’s opposite wing. Poland, number 26 in the table, are spirited underdogs and have an elite striker in Robert Lewandowski to rival at least Messi. Poland will be looking to exit the group stage for the first time in 36 years.
Brazil vs Cameroon, Group G, December 2, 2.00pm, Fox*
Places in the round of 16 are likely to remain up for grabs ahead of the final day in a highly competitive Group G, which also includes European stalwarts Serbia and Switzerland. But these teams cannot compare to Brazil, pre-tournament favorites in many corners, and Cameroon for potentially fun and stylish play. Brazilian superstar Neymar has a checkered history in two previous World Cups that she will be looking to rewrite; Vinicius Jr., in his first World Cup, is a sensation in the making. Cameroonian midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa thrills his team.
* subject to change