Defending champions Germany probably have the most difficult of the top seeds as they face awkward games against Mexico and Sweden, with South Korea the outsiders in Group F.

Croatia, debutants Iceland, and Nigeria will all fancy their chances of joining favourites Argentina in the knockout phase from Group D. It is the fifth time Nigeria have been grouped with Argentina in their six World Cups.

Oliver Bierhoff

The usual search for a “Group of Death” looks to be a fruitless one as, partly down to the new rankings-based format none of the “bigger” teams face more than one tough-looking rival.

Group E has a similar look with Brazil hot favourites but little to choose between Switzerland and Costa Rica, who both qualified via the playoffs, and Serbia.

The hosts will be pleased with their group as they face Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, while Group H looks the most open with little on paper between Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan.

England will break new ground when they face Panama for the first time and with Belgium and Tunisia also in Group G, they will expect to advance.

FIXTURES for the 2018 World Cup finals to be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15Group A

June 14

Russia v Saudi Arabia, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (15:00)

June 15

Egypt v Uruguay, Ekaterinburg (12:00)

June 19

Russia v Egypt, St Petersburg (18:00)

June 20

Uruguay v Saudi Arabia, Rostov,on,Don (15:00)

June 25

Uruguay v Russia, Samara (14:00)

Saudi Arabia v Egypt, Volgograd (14:00)

Group B

June 15

Morocco v Iran, St Petersburg (15:00)

Portugal v Spain, Sochi (18:00)

June 20

Portugal v Morocco, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (12:00)

Iran v Spain, Kazan (18:00)

June 25

Iran v Portugal, Saransk (18:00)

Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad (18:00)

Group C

June 16

France v Australia, Kazan (10:00)

Peru v Denmark, Saransk (16:00)

June 21

France v Peru, Ekaterinburg (12:00)

Denmark v Australia, Samara (15:00)

June 26

Denmark v France, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (14:00)

Australia v Peru, Sochi (1400)

Group D

June 16

Argentina v Iceland, Spartak Stadium, Moscow (13:00)

Croatia v Nigeria, Kaliningrad (19:00)

June 21

Argentina v Croatia, Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)

June 22

Nigeria v Iceland, Volgograd (15:00)

June 26

Nigeria v Argentina, St Petersburg (18:00)

Iceland v Croatia, Rostov,on,Don (18:00)

Group E

June 17

Costa Rica v Serbia, Samara (12:00)

Brazil v Switzerland, Rostov,on,Don (18:00)

June 22

Brazil v Costa Rica, St Petersburg (12:00)

Serbia v Switzerland, Kaliningrad (18:00)

June 27

Serbia v Brazil, Spartak Stadium, Moscow (18:00)

Switzerland v Costa Rica, Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)

Group F

June 17

Germany v Mexico, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (15:00)

June 18

Sweden v South Korea, Nizhny Novgorod (12:00)

June 23

Germany v Sweden, Sochi (15:00)

South Korea v Mexico, Rostov,on,Don (18:00)

June 27

South Korea v Germany, Kazan (14:00)

Mexico v Sweden, Ekaterinburg (14:00)

Group G

June 18

Belgium v Panama, Sochi (15:00)

Tunisia v England, Volgograd (18:00)

June 23

Belgium v Tunisia, Spartak Stadium, Moscow (12:00)

June 24

England v Panama, Nizhny Novgorod (12:00)

June 28

England v Belgium, Kaliningrad (18:00)

Panama v Tunisia, Saransk (18:00)

Group H

June 19

Poland v Senegal, Spartak Stadium, Moscow (12:00)

Colombia v Japan, Saransk (15:00)

June 24

Japan v Senegal, Ekaterinburg (15:00)

Poland v Colombia, Kazan (18:00)

June 28

Japan v Poland, Volgograd (14:00)

Senegal v Colombia, Samara (14:00)

Round of 16

June 30

M50

Winner Group C v Runner,up Group D, Kazan (14:00)

M49

Winner Group A v Runner,up Group B, Sochi (18:00)

July 1

M51

Winner Group B v Runner,up Group A, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (14:00)

M52

Winner Group D v Runner,up Group C, Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)

July 2

M53

Winner Group E v Runner,up Group F, Samara (14:00)

M54

Winner Group G v Runner,up Group H, Rostov,on,Don (18:00)

July 3

M55

Winner Group F v Runner,up Group E, St Petersburg (14:00)

M56

Winner Group H v Runner,up Group G, Spartak Stadium, Moscow (18:00)

Quarter,finals

July 6

M57

Winner M49 v Winner M50, Nizhny Novgorod (14:00)

M58

Winner M53 v Winner M54, Kazan (18:00)

July 7

M60

Winner M55 v Winner M56, Samara (14:00)

M 59

Winner M51 v Winner M52, Sochi (18:00)

Semi,finals

July 10

M61

Winner M57 v Winner M58, St Petersburg (18:00)

July 11

M62

Winner M59 v Winner M60, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (18:00)

Third place playoff

July 14

M63

Loser M61 v Loser M62, St Petersburg (14:00)

Final

15 July 2018

M64, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (15:00)

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