While we’re still unsure of every club that will be competing in the World Cup later this year, with the final continental play-offs set to kick off at the end of the domestic season, excitement is still building over the biggest tournament in football. It will certainly feel strange having a World Cup in late November as opposed to the usual summer slot, but nonetheless the recent group stage draw has meant anticipation will start to build, to the detriment of next season’s club fixtures.
You wonder if players will play within themselves towards October time to avoid getting injured for the tournament and how many transfers will be influenced by the burning desire for a player to represent their country. The group stage has drawn up some really entertaining fixtures which will pit club mates against each other and will almost guarantee to cause some upsets within the football betting odds. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three of the most exciting groups to look forward to at the World Cup.
Group A – Netherlands, Qatar, Senegal and Ecuador
Due to the controversy of Qatar hosting the tournament, many football fans are hoping that Qatar don’t get a single point from what will likely be their only ever World Cup campaign. They come in as underdogs in Group A and will look to join the likes of Russia and Korea in years gone by as host nations who have massively overachieved. To do so, they’ll need to beat Ecuador, who took points from both Argentina and Brazil in qualifying matches as well as Africa Cup of Nations winners Senegal and the Netherlands, who are in their first major tournament since 2014.
Key fixture: Netherlands vs Senegal will be a tasty affair with Liverpool colleagues Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané coming to blows in what will realistically be a battle for top spot.
Group D – France, Australia/UAE/Peru, Denmark, Tunisia
With some of the qualifiers still not settled, Peru will take on either Australia or the United Arab Emirates as they look to improve on their group stage exit at the last World Cup, which actually consisted of themselves, the Aussies, France and Denmark! The latter two European sides will be familiar with each other after their goalless draw in Russia, and with France going on to win the tournament this will be the first defence of their World Cup. Tunisia are massive outsiders but the unpredictability of the World Cup means you simply can’t rule them out. They’ll also be better acclimatised to the hot weather than the Europeans.
Key fixture: You guessed it, France vs Denmark. The French were underwhelming at the Euros last summer while Denmark overachieved, and with talisman Christian Eriksen hopefully back in the side, the Danes could well sneak top spot if they can replicate the fairy-tale run they enjoyed that summer.
Group C – Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
For the first time in five World Cups now, Argentina won’t be playing Nigeria in a World Cup group stage game, and while many thought we’d pick Group E for this list, which sees Spain and Germany come to blows, Group C looks far more entertaining due to the potential for goals. None of the sides involved exactly have a reputation for defending and even in a tournament environment you’d expect the full throttle approach from all of them to, if anything, be doubled down. There are some great strikers in the group so expect plenty of chances and some high scoring games
Key fixture: Messi vs Lewandowski — we mean Argentina vs Poland. The two talismans will go head to head in what will probably be the last time we see Paris Saint-Germain’s magician at his peak in a World Cup. Regardless of his domestic form, Messi finally tasted international success winning the Copa América last summer and will want to right the wrongs of 2014, where he carried an ordinary squad to within an inch of the history books. Lewandowski has been equally free scoring for Bayern Munich and will want international success to bolster his Ballon d’Or bid over Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah.