Entertaiment

Spain, Portugal ready for early duel; Germany handed tough games

Spain, Portugal ready for early duel; Germany handed tough games

On Friday, FIFA announced the World Cup final draw for the 2018 tournament, which will take place in Russian Federation next summer.

A fairly balanced draw left the 6,000 dignitaries assembled at the State Kremlin Arena in Moscow with no standout "group of death" to mull over, although some intriguing matchups do lie ahead once the tournament kicks off next summer.

"For me, it's a very special group, because Portugal is my country and I was fortunate to train Real Madrid, so I have a good knowledge of Spanish football". In the 1986 World Cup, the Argentinian infamously scored against England using his hand, and claimed divine intervention had played a role.

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. "Portugal have to accept that we are one of the favourites but if you look in a bit more detail, you can see it's very hard", Santos said. Performance against defending World Champions, and bookies favourites, Germany could well determine who qualifies, as it did for the Boys in Green in 2002.

Early exits at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 appeared to show the sun was setting on Spain's most successful generation after three consecutive major tournament triumphs at Euros 2008 and 2012 either side of La Roja's only ever World Cup title in South Africa in 2010.

Ronaldo will be 33 come next year's finals, meaning this will probably be his last shot at World Cup glory. "This is a World Cup".

"You know football, you always have a chance", said Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. "They are going to demand the best of us", he added.

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If Argentina progress as group winners as expected, and Spain edge Portugal to top spot, the two nations could collide in Sochi for a place in the semi-finals, with holders Germany then the most likely obstacle between the victor and the final.

Iran national football team will reportedly take part at the tournament in Qatar as part of preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation. "I hope they avoid each other because it would probably make a good semi or final".

Russia's other opponents in Group A are Uruguay, led by Barcelona's Luis Suarez, and Egypt, spearheaded by Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah.

France and their potent strike force of Antoine Griezmann and teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe will play Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C.

"Portugal have won an important title and, moreover, very recently. It's going to be a hard tournament", Santos added.

"The majority of their players compete in Europe", Lopetegui said.

"It will be a tough group".