World Cup Group Stage: Five Potential Highlights
Zeeshan Mehtab 6 days ago Wed 13th June 2018 | 03:08 PM
The World Cup group stage will see 48 games crammed into two weeks. AFP Sport picks out the moments to look out for in Russia:
Sochi, Russia, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th Jun, 2018 ) :The World Cup group stage will see 48 games crammed into two weeks. AFP Sport picks out the moments to look out for in Russia: - Opening match - How can anyone miss the opening game at the World Cup? It sets the tone for a month-long festival of football, even if in this case it brings together the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition.
Hosts Russia will walk out onto the pitch at the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium ranked a lowly 70th in the world, three spots below Group A rivals Saudi Arabia, and without a victory in eight months.
- Portugal v Spain - The standout fixture in the first round is this Iberian derby in Sochi, as Spain look to make an early statement of intent when they take on Cristiano Ronaldo and the reigning European champions in Group B.
- Salah return? - Mohamed Salah has been in the headlines in the past few days thanks to the photograph of him posing with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov at the Egyptian team's base in Grozny.
Egypt are pinning their hopes on Salah after his prolific season in England, as the Pharaohs prepare for their first appearance at the World Cup since 1990.
- England v Belgium - The very last group game will be played in the exclave of Kaliningrad on June 28, and it will be worth the wait, as these sides are expected to be competing for top spot in Group G.
The English have a talented young squad, and for once expectations at home are not over the top. It will be fascinating to see how they fare against Belgium's golden generation, led by Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
- VAR - Will the introduction of Video Assistant Referees cause World Cup chaos, or will it prove to be a welcome addition to the competition? VAR has been used to varying degrees of success in Serie A and the German Bundesliga, while FIFA used the system at the Confederations Cup in Russia last year and are confident it will help officials on the field.
FIFA director of referees Massimo Busacca admits the system has been rushed in for the tournament, but said: "We are ready, we know we must be ready as there can be no experiments here."Controversial incidents will be replayed on big screens inside grounds so fans can see why decisions were reached. And, curiously, VAR officials in the Moscow control room will watch games in full kit.
"VAR officials sweat with the stress -- believe me," said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA's referees committee.