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.

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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:

GROUP STAGE

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

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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

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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

 

 

LAST 16

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

 

 

QUARTER-FINALS

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

 

 

SEMI-FINALS

Tuesday July 10        Winner 57 v winner 58       St Petersburg            7pm

Wednesday July 11   Winner 59 v winner 60       Moscow (Luzhniki)  7pm

 

 

THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF

Saturday July 14        Losers of two semi-finals     St Petersburg            3pm

 

 

FINAL

Sunday July 15          Winners of two-semi-finals  Moscow (Luzhniki)  4pm

 

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