The biggest sporting event on earth is only hours away from kick-off as the 22nd World Cup gets underway in Qatar.
Following the opening ceremony being held at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor the hosts will take on South American side Ecuador in the first game of the group stage on Sunday.
That will be the only game of the first day but after that there will be three or four games on every day for the duration of the group stages.
As always South American giants Brazil are among the heavy favourites as the samba stars look to lift the trophy for a record sixth time.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who are now unbeaten in their last 36 matches, will also be one of the heaviest backed sides by football supporters all over the world as the popular superstar looks to win the sport’s biggest prize in what will likely be his final shot.
The 35-year-old won his first international trophy in last year’s Copa America and will be hungry for a second after a good start to the season in France.
The PSG star’s long time ‘GOAT’ rival Cristiano Ronaldo will also have his last chance of World Cup glory as the 37-year-old leads Portugal into the tournament for a fifth time.
Ronaldo, who is the leading international goal scorer of all time, looks to have come to the end of his time at Manchester United after his explosive interview with Piers Morgan and could feel he had a point to prove in Qatar.
Champions France will again be one of the teams to beat as they look to become the first team to win it back-to-back in 60 years and with a forward line of Kylian Mbappe and Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema they will be confident against anyone.
England will also fancy their chances of going far into the tournament again with Gareth Southgate’s men looking to win their first major tournament since 1966.
They reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and fell at the last hurdle of last year’s delayed European Championships when the lost a final penalty shootout to Italy at Wembley.
Spain also have an exciting young team that will there or thereabouts, Netherlands will be a handful for anyone as always and as the old cliche goes… you can never write off the Germans.
African champions Senegal could represent the continents’ best chance so far of reaching the last four for the first time, although star player Sadio Mane will miss out through injury.
Ghana, Morocco and Cameroon will also be dangerous outsiders as will two-time winners Uruguay, who have former Liverpool and Barcelona striker Luis Suarez back up top.
Scotland, who haven’t been to a World Cup since 1998, failed to qualify again, but the Premiership will be well represented by the likes of Daizen Maeda for Japan, Borna Barisic with Croatia, Edinburgh derby rivals Martin Boyle and Cammy Devlin for Australia and Dundee United’s Dylan Levitt who is in the Wales squad alongside the liked of Gareth Bale and former Rangers loan star Arron Ramsey.
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