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Eight unmissable group stage games at the World Cup

A look at the stand-out fixture from each group in Russia this summer.

PSG forward Neymar is Brazil's star man.
PSG forward Neymar is Brazil's star man. PA

The World Cup is upon us and that means over a month chock full with football.

Many will make it their mission to tune in to all 92 group stage fixtures ahead of the knock-out rounds.

Such ambition, while worthy of applause, can become nothing more than a pipe dream as a combination of work, relationships and the occasionally turgid match does its best to put those plans in disarray.

Picking and choosing the games which will set off fireworks can become key here, so we've run the rule over the stand-out fixture from each group.

Group A: Egypt v Uruguay - June 15, 1pm

Liverpool forward Mo Salah has declared himself fit for Egypt's group opener against Uruguay.
Liverpool forward Mo Salah has declared himself fit for Egypt's group opener against Uruguay. PA

Hosts Russia may kick off the World Cup against Saudi Arabia but Group A's stand-out fixture doesn't take place till the following day.

Egypt were left to sweat over the fitness of talisman Mo Salah after the Liverpool goal machine picked up a shoulder injury in the Champions League final.

But Salah has declared himself fit for the Pharaohs' opener against the South Americans and the winger will carry his country's World Cup hopes on his sore shoulders.

Tournament veterans Uruguay, with Atletico Madrid stalwarts Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin at the back and the fearsome duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez up top, will form a formidable obstacle for Salah and co to overcome, though.

Whichever side prevails in this one will fancy their chances of topping Group A, with hosts Russia toiling in the build-up and Saudi Arabia amongst the tournament's lowest ranked outfits.

Group B: Portugal v Spain - June 15, 7pm

Cristiano Ronaldo takes on Spanish defenders at Euro 2012.
Cristiano Ronaldo takes on Spanish defenders at Euro 2012. PA

Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain, two nations with eyes on going all the way, face off in their Group B opener on Friday in a mouthwatering clash.

Inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal claimed the Euros title two years ago and harbour ambitions in Russia of continuing their impressive tournament form.

Spain, however, are rejuvenated after a period of uncertainty, and are as one of the favourites after mauling Argentina 6-1 in the build-up.

Rangers' veteran defender Bruno Alves has a job on his hands to keep the free-flowing Spaniards at bay.

Group C: France v Peru - June 21, 4pm

Antoine Greizmann will be key to France's World Cup hopes.
Antoine Greizmann will be key to France's World Cup hopes. PA

France will be looking to reaffirm their credentials as one of the tournament favourites when they face Peru, a side touted as one of this summer's surprise packages.

Les Blues boast a fearsome squad, with the striking omissions of stars including Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial laying clear the strength-in-depth at Didier Deschamps' disposal.

To this point, cramming all the talent into a balanced starting eleven has proven an enviable task for Deschamps.

But should he stumble upon the magic formula in Russia, France could be one of the World Cup's most entertaining watches.

The game against Peru is likely to be a barnstormer, with the South Americans becoming renowned over the last couple of years for their attacking philosophy.

Group D: Argentina v Iceland - June 16, 2pm

Lionel Messi trains as Argentina warm up for the World Cup.
Lionel Messi trains as Argentina warm up for the World Cup. PA

"Super Saturday" sees four fixtures crammed into the one day.

While all four matches have their merits, perhaps the most interesting is Iceland's World Cup bow against Lionel Messi's Argentina.

The Scandinavians' team spirit and effervescent showings saw them become everyone's favourite second team at the European Championships two years ago and they will be out to repeat the feat in Russia.

While Iceland's are perhaps greater than the sum-of-their-parts, for Argentina it's a case of finding a means to squeeze the pieces - most notably Lionel Messi - into the jigsaw.

The contrast between the two sides is fascinating and will likely make for an entertaining watch.

Group E: Serbia v Brazil - June 27, 7pm

Brazil superstar Neymar celebrates after scoring a stunner against Croatia.
Brazil superstar Neymar celebrates after scoring a stunner against Croatia. PA

Brazil's final group fixture will likely prove their toughest in Group E as Serbia provide the opposition.

The Samba stars arrive in Russia dreaming of a sixth World Cup crown, and have been bolstered by Neymar's eye-catching return to form after injury.

Neymar has scored crackers in each of Brazil's warm-up wins over Croatia and Austria, and will be one of the tournament's poster boys this summer.

Under Tite's watch, the Selecao are a much-improved outfit compared to the side that limped out of their home tournament four years ago after a 7-1 thrashing off eventual champions Germany.

Serbia will prove a hard nut to crack, however, with Branislov Ivanovic and Alexsandar Kolarov helping form a formidable back-line.

Group F: Germany v Mexico - June 17, 4pm

Germany hold aloft the World Cup in 2014.
Germany hold aloft the World Cup in 2014. PA

Champions Germany begin their defence against Mexico as they look to become the first nation to retain the title in more than 50 years.

Their preparations haven't been ideal, however, with laborious displays over the last couple of years, coupled with controversy over the booing of Ilkay Gundogan, raising doubt as to whether the Germans are capable of keeping their crown.

Under Joachim Low's watch, Germany have reached at least the last four at the last six major tournaments, though, and always proved a dab hand at dismissing controversy to focus on competition form.

A fine opening display would help dispel any lingering concerns over how the squad, minus major omission Leroy Sane, is shaping up.

Mexico are no mugs, though, and will do their best to upset the German apple cart in the opener.

Group G: England v Belgium, June 28 - 7pm

Spurs striker Harry Kane will skipper England in Russia.
Spurs striker Harry Kane will skipper England in Russia. PA

The eye-catching fixture in Group G is also its last as England and Belgium go head-to-head.

England head to Russia quietly confident after an impressive run of results through qualifying and warm-up fixtures under Gareth Southgate.

In Belgium, though, they face a team labelled the nation's "Golden Generation" and one tipped to go all the way this summer.

The meeting between the two is bound to be a dramatic affair, and with both harbouring hopes of a prolonged stay in Russia the result could set up an easier route for the knockout rounds for the victor.

Group H: Poland v Colombia - June 24, 7pm

Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez was top goalscorer at the 2014 World Cup.
Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez was top goalscorer at the 2014 World Cup. Reuters

Colombia were one of the star turns in Brazil four years ago and the South Americans will be out to show their quality again this time around.

With the 2014 edition's top goalscorer James Rodriguez and attackers such as Falcao in their ranks, Colombia boast a healthy amount of firepower.

Poland harbour a formidable strike force of their own, however, and are led by Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski - Europe's top marksman in qualifying.

Fireworks are to be expected when the two nations meet and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

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