Having concluded the World Cup draw, all preparations can now take full gear as participating nations now know its opponents, at least in the group stage. With five African nations representing the continent, what are the changes of going far or winning the prestigious title?
Tunisia: Ranked top in Africa by FIFA, the Tunisians who have been absent since 2006, have two teams whom they played against in France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002 World Cups, England and Belgium, joined by Panama.
Though it appears difficult on paper, all hope is not lost as Tunisia faces an experimental and youthful England team with the major scare coming from Belgium.
However, a disciplined Tunisian team could exploit errors from any team.
Egypt: Ranked 30th in FIFA World ranking, the Pharaohs and six times Africa champions have really not had it good at qualifying for the World Cup. Having missed the competition for 28 years, a return will see them compete against host nation Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.
The Pharaohs’ first match against Uruguay could be a rather high mountain to climb, with the Barcelona Striker Luis Suarez and PSG’s Edison Cavani up in front for the South Americans.
The Uruguayans are favourite in Group A but the Pharaohs will have to battle with Russia and an unbalanced Saudi Arabia.
Senegal: The Lions of Senegal, the only African team to have gotten to the quarter finals of the World Cup and ranked 32nd in the World faces Poland, Columbia and Japan.
The group, which is rather open, will see Aliou Cisse’s side handle pressure from Robert Lewandowski and high scoring Radamel Falcao for Columbia.
Senegal’s weakness seems to be defence especially from the flanks. However, the side, having displaced South Africa to seal a spot for Russia, has a point to prove.
Nigeria: The Super Eagles of Nigeria are once again pitted against familiar foes, Argentina.
Ranked 41 in the World, against the Albiceleste ranked 4th in the World, Nigeria has lost all four World Cup meetings with the Argentines by a one goal margin.
Having beaten Argentina four goals to two in an international friendly, the former African champions will have to reckon with Messi who was absent in the friendly.
Nigeria also face the smallest country to qualify for the World Cup, Iceland, who have of late proven to be a resilient team, beating England from behind in Euro 2016 in France as well as qualifying with an impressive performance.
Croatia, apparently Nigeria’s first opponent at the World Cup, should not be much of a scare for Gernot Rohr and his men.
Morocco: The Atlas Lions face a daunting task as the group looks like injustice to the least ranked African nation (48 in the World ranking).
Grouped alongside Portugal and former World Cup winner, Spain, Morocco do not seem to stand a chance of qualifying from the group stage.
Portugal upset the World to win Euro 2016 against France and has since improved in attacking approach and is favourite in the group.
Although the Spaniards have not been in best form, they have impressively struggled to survive and rebuild after a disappointing outing at the last World Cup where they got eliminated in the group stage. Spain always appears to be favourite in every match and is most likely not letting their guard down.
Morocco, despite a proficient defence, would have a run for its money.
Full match fixtures:
Date Match Venue Kick-off
Thursday June 14 Russia v Saudi Arabia (A) Moscow (Luzhniki) 4pm GMT
Friday June 15 Egypt v Uruguay (A) Ekaterinburg 1pm
Friday June 15 Morocco v Iran (B) St Petersburg 4pm
Friday June 15 Portugal v Spain (B) Sochi 7pm
Saturday June 16 France v Australia (C) Kazan 11am
Saturday June 16 Argentina v Iceland (D) Moscow (Spartak) 2pm
Saturday June 16 Peru v Denmark (C) Saransk 5pm
Saturday June 16 Croatia v Nigeria (D) Kaliningrad 8pm
Sunday June 17 Costa Rica v Serbia (E) Samara 1pm
Sunday June 17 Germany v Mexico (F) Moscow (Luzhniki) 4pm
Sunday June 17 Brazil v Switzerland (E) Rostov-on-Don 7pm
Monday June 18 Sweden v South Korea (F) Nizhny Novgorod 1pm
Monday June 18 Belgium v Panama (G) Sochi 4pm
Monday June 18 Tunisia v England (G) Volgograd 7pm
Tuesday June 19 Poland v Senegal (H) Moscow (Spartak) 1pm
Tuesday June 19 Colombia v Japan (H) Saransk 4pm
Tuesday June 19 Russia v Egypt (A) St Petersburg 7pm
Wednesday June 20 Portugal v Morocco (B) Moscow (Luzhniki) 1pm
Wednesday June 20 Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (A) Rostov-on-Don 4pm
Wednesday June 20 Iran v Spain (B) Kazan 7pm
Thursday June 21 France v Peru (C) Ekaterinburg 1pm
Thursday June 21 Denmark v Australia (C) Samara 4pm
Thursday June 21 Argentina v Croatia (D) Nizhny Novgorod 7pm
Friday June 22 Brazil v Costa Rica (E) St Petersburg 1pm
Friday June 22 Nigeria v Iceland (D) Volgograd 4pm
Friday June 22 Serbia v Switzerland (E) Kaliningrad 7pm
Saturday June 23 Belgium v Tunisia (G) Moscow (Spartak) 1pm
Saturday June 23 Germany v Sweden (F) Sochi 4pm
Saturday June 23 South Korea v Mexico (F) Rostov-on-Don 7pm
Sunday June 24 England v Panama (G) Nizhny Novgorod 1pm
Sunday June 24 Japan v Senegal (H) Ekaterinburg 4pm
Sunday June 24 Poland v Colombia (H) Kazan 7pm
Monday June 25 Uruguay v Russia (A) Samara 3pm
Monday June 25 Saudi Arabia v Egypt (A) Volgograd 3pm
Monday June 25 Spain v Morocco (B) Kaliningrad 7pm
Monday June 25 Iran v Portugal (B) Saransk 7pm
Tuesday June 26 Denmark v France (C) Moscow (Luzhniki) 3pm
Tuesday June 26 Australia v Peru (C) Sochi 3pm
Tuesday June 26 Nigeria v Argentina (D) St Petersburg 7pm
Tuesday June 26 Iceland v Croatia (D) Rostov-on-Don 7pm
Wednesday June 27 South Korea v Germany (F) Kazan 3pm
Wednesday June 27 Mexico v Sweden (F) Ekaterinburg 3pm
Wednesday June 27 Serbia v Brazil (E) Moscow (Spartak) 7pm
Wednesday June 27 Switzerland v Costa Rica (E) Nizhny Novgorod 7pm
Thursday June 28 Japan v Poland (H) Volgograd 3pm
Thursday June 28 Senegal v Colombia (H) Samara 3pm
Thursday June 28 England v Belgium (G) Kaliningrad 7pm
Thursday June 28 Panama v Tunisia (G) Saransk 7pm
Saturday June 30 1C v 2D (Match 50) Kazan 3pm
Saturday June 30 1A v 2B (Match 49) Sochi 7pm
Sunday July 1 1B v 2A (Match 51) Moscow 3pm
Sunday July 1 1D v 2C (Match 52) Nizhny Novgorod 7pm
Monday July 2 1E v 2F (Match 53) Samara 3pm
Monday July 2 1G v 2H (Match 54) Rostov-on-Don 7pm
Tuesday July 3 1F v 2E (Match 55) St Petersburg 3pm
Tuesday July 3 1H v 2G (Match 56) Moscow (Spartak) 7pm
Friday July 6 Winner 49 v winner 50 (57) Nizhny Novgorod 3pm
Friday July 6 Winner 53 v winner 54 (58) Kazan 7pm
Saturday July 7 Winner 55 v winner 56 (60) Samara 3pm
Saturday July 7 Winner 51 v winner 52 (59) Sochi 7pm
Tuesday July 10 Winner 57 v winner 58 St Petersburg 7pm
Wednesday July 11 Winner 59 v winner 60 Moscow (Luzhniki) 7pm
Saturday July 14 Losers of two semi-finals St Petersburg 3pm
Sunday July 15 Winners of two-semi-finals Moscow (Luzhniki) 4pm