Colombia launch their World Cup campaign on Tuesday while hosts Russia could put one foot in the knockout stages.
Here, FP ponders what to look out for on Tuesday:
Colombia v Japan
Radamel Falcao will make his long-awaited World Cup debut as Colombia look to emulate the form which swept them to the quarter-finals in 2014. But Jose Pekerman’s side will have to improve on a poor qualifying campaign, in which they limped over the line in fourth place. Japan have also had a patchy recent history, sacking boss Vahid Halilhodzic two months ago despite the Bosnian having steered them to a sixth consecutive finals, following a string of poor friendly results.
Poland v Senegal
They might not be the biggest-name nations but Poland and Senegal could serve up a treat at the Spartak Stadium. Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is the Poles’ main star and will be supplied by the pace of the likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski. But few World Cup rivals can match Senegal for attacking threat, with coach Aliou Cisse having a whole series of options with regard to who will partner Liverpool striker Sadio Mane up front.
Russia v Egypt
Hosts Russia started the World Cup in style with a 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia and will be big favourites to beat Egypt. But while the Saudis offered scant resistance, the Pharaohs ought to be a different proposition, desperate to atone for their heartbreaking late loss to Uruguay and keep their own tournament alive. The big question is whether Mohamed Salah will make his first belated appearance.
Brace yourself for a further Cristiano Ronaldo love-in as Portugal host their press conference ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Morocco. Coach Fernando Santos is sure to be grilled about the Real Madrid hero, who struck a stunning hat-trick in the opener against Spain. It will be equally entertaining to discover how Morocco and their coach Herve Renard – smarting from their last-gasp opening loss to Iran – intend to stop him.
Also coming up
Fernando Hierro endured a tumultuous opening game in charge of Spain and will be keen to stamp more of his authority as he faces the media ahead of his side’s second group game against buoyant Iran. There are also press conferences for Uruguay and Saudi Arabia respectively, with Saudi coach Juan Antonio Pizzi already under colossal pressure following an opening result which was described in his homeland as “shameful”.
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