This week, Fox Sports released their broadcast schedule for the 2018 World Cup. The full schedule of the 64 match tournament includes a whopping 38 matches on Fox’s broadcast network, 26 of which come during the group stage. In addition, all but one day of the group stage has at least one match on “big Fox”.
With at least three matches taking place every day throughout the group stage (aside from June 14th, the first day of the tournament), I got curious which of the 14 days had the most appealing schedule – and which of the 14 had a schedule that would only appeal to diehard fans.
1. June 27th: Mexico vs Sweden, South Korea vs Germany, Serbia vs Brazil, Switzerland vs Costa Rica
Five of the eight teams playing on this matchday were in the Round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup. Sweden was the only one of the eight that didn’t qualify for Brazil four years ago (and they came about as close as you can get). Three of the eight reached the quarterfinals, and two were in the semifnals. The Group E matches (Serbia-Brazil and Switzerland-Costa Rica) could also end up determining who goes through to the Round of 16, given that Brazil and Switzerland, the best two teams in the group, play each other ten days earlier on the first day of play for this group. Tensions will be high, and there will be a lot on the line.
2. June 17th: Costa Rica vs Serbia, Germany vs Mexico, Brazil vs Switzerland
This is June 27th, but with one fewer match (and better matchups). The Germany-Mexico and Brazil-Switzerland matches will go a long way to determining whether or not a dark horse contender makes it out of Group E or Group F, and Costa Rica-Serbia could put one of Group E’s underdogs in a good position heading into their matches with the favorites later in group play.
3. June 28th: Senegal vs Colombia, Japan vs Poland, England vs Belgium, Panama vs Tunisia
I think England-Belgium is the match I’m looking most forward to during group play, if only to see what Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku combine to do against fellow Premier League players. The Panama-Tunisia match could also take on extra significance if one of the teams manages to take points off of either Belgium or England earlier in group play. As for the Group H matches, this is arguably the most open group, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if both spots from that group are still up for grabs entering the final day of group play.
4. June 23rd: Belgium vs Tunisia, South Korea vs Mexico, Germany vs Sweden
I think both of the Group F matches could be incredibly entertaining, even if South Korea and Sweden are weaker than Mexico and Sweden. As for Belgium-Tunisia…well, it’ll be a World Cup Group Stage match. Maybe Tunisia can keep it competitive. Probably not, but maybe!
5. June 18th: Sweden vs South Korea, Belgium vs Panama, Tunisia vs England
I have a thing for Group F and Group G, in case you couldn’t tell. The Sweden-South Korea match could put one of those teams in decent shape to make it out of the group, while the two Group G matches will go a long way towards determining whether or not either Belgium or England won’t qualify from their group.
6. June 15th: Egypt vs Uruguay, Morocco vs Iran, Portugal vs Spain
I may be underselling this day a little bit, as its the first full day of matches in this tournament. The Egypt-Uruguay matchup will pit goalscoring studs Mo Salah and Luis Suarez against one another, while Portugal-Spain puts the last two Euro winners against one another, and also is a battle of Cristiano Ronaldo vs a bunch of his Real Madrid teammates and Barcelona rivals. Morocco-Iran is an underwhelming match that will likely determine which team finishes third in the group.
7. June 22nd: Brazil vs Costa Rica, Nigeria vs Iceland, Serbia vs Switzerland
If either Costa Rica or Serbia is going to advance, this might be the day where one of them needs to make an impact, given the Brazil-Switzerland clash five days earlier. Nigeria-Iceland is the least sexy matchup from Group D, but maybe the love affair with Iceland from Euro 2016 carries over to this summer and they become an incredible story once again.
8. June 21st: Denmark vs Australia, France vs Peru, Argentina vs Croatia
This is the day where Groups C & D will likely be decided, with the top two nations from each group squaring off. I don’t have much to say about Denmark-Australia aside from my opinion that it’ll be entertaining and the Danes might surprise a lot of people this summer.
9. June 26th: Denmark vs France, Australia vs Peru, Nigeria vs Argentina, Iceland vs Croatia
Depending on what happens on June 21st, this could be a must-win situation for either Argentina or Croatia. The prospect of Lionel Messi needing to beat Nigeria to advance to the Round of 16 sure would be an improbable, wonderful story, but let’s try to temper our expectations here. As for the Group C matchups, France is clearly the group’s best team, and the battle for the second qualification spot will be a dogfight that could be decided by whether or not any of the three other teams in the group steals a point from the French.
10. June 24th: England vs Panama, Japan vs Senegal, Poland vs Colombia
Poland-Colombia will give the winner the inside track towards top spot in the group and will feature striker teammates James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski facing off against each other. Senegal has a fun-looking team highlighted by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, and the Japanese could have their hands more full than expected. England-Panama should be a walk in the park, but after England’s disastrous turnout four years ago, a meltdown wouldn’t be surprising.
12. June 20th: Portugal vs Morocco, Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia, Iran vs Spain
These three matches should be entertaining and all feature stars (Ronaldo, Suarez, the entire Spanish team), but it would be pretty surprising if Morocco, Saudi Arabia, or Iran even drew, let alone won.
12. June 25th: Uruguay vs Russia, Saudi Arabia vs Egypt, Iran vs Portugal, Spain vs Morocco
See June 20th, adding Mo Salah to the compliment of stars and Russia to the stable of underdogs. Saudi Arabia vs Egypt could determine the second team out of Group A, though – I don’t think anyone is assuming the host Russians coast into the Round of 16.
13. June 16th: France vs Australia, Argentina vs Iceland, Peru vs Denmark, Croatia vs Nigeria
Four matches on a Saturday is pretty damn cool, but there are three pretty clear favorites in these matches. Peru-Denmark is one of the more interesting matches of the first round though, given that Peru hasn’t been to the World Cup since 1982 and Denmark missed both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euro tournaments.
14. June 19th: Colombia vs Japan, Poland vs Senegal, Russia vs Egypt
I am very excited to watch Robert Lewandowski vs Sadio Mane on my birthday. James Rodriguez and Mo Salah will also be in action, though neither has that stern of a test.