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14th Jun 2018

Dates to remember: The games you need to watch in the World Cup group stage

The World Cup is amazing, but some matches require greater attention

Rudi Kinsella

Put the dates in your diary, you don’t want to miss these games

If you’re anything like us, you’re going wild with World Cup fever. You’ve got the bunting up, your wall chart is firmly planted on the wall and you are wearing your England bucket hat placed upon your reverberating head.

World Cups are simply the best thing to happen, regardless of whether you’re a cynic or an optimist, and this month is going to be exceptionally good fun.

As good as the World Cup is though, some games are better than others.

The following are some of the most important dates of the World Cup group stages. Be it for quality players, interesting backstories or just overall good craic, you might want to head down to the pub for these games.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia – June 14, 16:00

This is it. The big one. The geopolitics derby.

OK, it might be a bit of an underwhelming first game in terms of football quality, but this is the one that starts it all off.

This is one nearly everyone will watch. There will be an extremely long and drawn-out opening ceremony beforehand, which should get us in the mood for what could be a cracking game.

Or it could be a boring 0-0, but who will care because the WORLD CUP WILL HAVE STARTED!

Portugal vs Spain – June 15, 19:00

Ooft. This has to be a good one. This is the sort of game you’ll want to watch at home, just to fully enjoy the football that will be played, rather than glance at it occasionally in the pub.

And with the added drama of Spain’s current managerial crisis, who knows what to expect?

With players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves, David Silva, Isco, Sergio Ramos and David De Gea all on the pitch at the same time, something brilliant will surely have to happen. It looks more like a semi-final than a group opener. We can’t wait for this one.

Egypt vs Uruguay – June 15, 13:00

Salah vs Suarez. One current Liverpool star, one ex-Liverpool legend. Realistically, every game that Salah plays in is unmissable, especially after seeing the reaction to his penalty that qualified Egypt for the tournament.

Listen to the commentary; goosebumps guaranteed.

Clip via Darvinskyi

Let’s just hope he’s fit…

Brazil vs Switzerland – June 17, 19:00

Brazil have an extremely talented side at this point in time, and it is one that is much more synonymous with the Brazil of old compared to the teams of recent years. With players like Neymar, Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa, Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Ederson, Brazil are most people’s favourites, and for good reason too.

They might not go on to win it, but they will certainly entertain, and this is where it all begins.

Iceland vs Nigeria – June 22, 16:00

Judging by recent history, this is going to be great craic.

The Iceland fans already showed their worth at the Euros in 2016 with their amazing support and their iconic thunderclapping, and, judging by their celebrations upon qualifying for the tournament, Nigeria know well how to party too…

Clip via Bounce News Nigeria

This type of game is what the World Cup is all about.

England vs Panama – June 24, 13:00

The first of two England games on the list, but come on, it’s Panama. Can you IMAGINE if England don’t win? It would be a bigger upset than the defeat Iceland, which gave the world what might be the best piece of punditry of the past 10 years from Steve McClaren.

Clip via Sky Bet

Here’s hoping Panama bring their iconic ballboy with them for the craic. They’ll always have a chance with him…

Clip via null

Belgium vs England – June 28, 19:00

This will be a good one and, without a doubt, the World Cup game with the most Premier League stars on display.

England’s entire starting XI comes from the league, and Belgium basically look like a Premier League all-star team. De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard, Alderweireld, Kane, Sterling, Lingard, Walker and more.

Above all, it’ll be the game that illustrates just how far England have come, and whether or not they have a legitimate chance.

Colombia vs Senegal – June 28, 15:00

Realistically, we could have picked any game from this group, but we’ll go with this one for now.

Colombia are one of the dark horses for the competition, because they have a few quality players. But after that, what happens in that group is anybody’s guess. Assuming Colombia go through, Japan, Poland and Senegal will be fighting it out for second in what should be an extremely close battle.

As well as getting a good look at Senegal, this game could feature some more moments of magic from James, so don’t miss it.

Clip via FIFATV

Now, please remember that this is just a guide for you. If possible, do try and watch every single game, even if it requires dropping everything else in your life for it. It’s the World Cup, and it only comes around once every four years.