Portugal, Spain in heavyweight showdown as Ronaldo faces Ramos

Portugal has been warned Spain's managerial turmoil could inspire them in the opening World Cup encounter.
Group B clash between Portugal and Spain pits the current European champions against arguably the best international side in the last decade. Net photo

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Group A

Egypt vs Uruguay 5pm

Group B

Morocco vs Iran 6pm
Portugal vs Spain 9pm

Group B has a massive clash early on as Spain take on Euro 2016 winners Portugal.

Can Cristiano Ronaldo get his side off to the perfect start? How will Spain recover from the chaos that has enveloped them already, with Julen Lopetegui sacked before a ball has been kicked?

When the World Cup group draw was made back in December at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, this match immediately stood out. A clash between the Iberian neighbors – one many peoples' favorites and the other boasting the world's most high-profile footballer – was always going to be a mouth-watering occasion.

A remarkable sequence of events in the lead-up to the match has only heightened expectations. First, four of Portugal's squad members unilaterally rescinded their club contracts at Sporting Lisbon.

Not to be outdone, Spain sensationally sacked their coach Lopetegui TWO days before the match.

If the off-pitch chaos is mirrored on the field, we could be in for something highly entertaining.

Following all the drama of the last few days, Spain's entire tournament now rests on how they do in their opening game.

The sacking of national manager Lopetegui, hours after Real Madrid announced him as their new club coach, has left everyone in and around the La Roja camp reeling.

Quickly appointed Fernando Hierro must get his players' minds focused on just playing this 90 minutes – as a defeat in the Group B opener would surely just lead to more recriminations and turmoil both inside and outside the squad.

Egypt eye winning start against Uruguay

Egypt will face off with Uruguay in their maiden 2018 Fifa World Cup Group A match at the Yekaterinburg Stadium in Russia on Friday. Kick-off is at 2pm CAT.

The Pharaohs are set to make their first appearance in the World Cup finals since 1990 having failed to qualify for the last six global tournaments.

They reached this year’s finals after winning their qualifying group which included Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville as well as African giants Ghana.

Mohamed Salah, who is on the books of English giants Liverpool FC, played an instrumental role in helping the Pharaohs qualify for the World Cup.

The speedy forward scored the most goals (five) in the third round of qualifying, including a stoppage-time penalty to give Egypt a dramatic 2-1 win over Congo-Brazzaville which secured the Pharaohs’ place in this year’s finals.

The Pharaohs, who have won a record seven Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) titles, will take on a formidable Uruguay side in their first Group A match, but they will be determined to start their group-stage campaign with a victory.

The North African giants have been boosted by Salah’s return to full training.

The 25-year-old, who has been out nursing a shoulder injury, and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny are the Pharaohs’ key players.

Agencies

 

 

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