World Cup rivalries reprised

  • Russia 2018 Final Draw took place on 1 December in Moscow

  • Argentina-Nigeria is the most played World Cup fixture from the draw

  • ARG-NGA and JPN-COL faced each other as early as 2014

While Iceland and Panama represent a new chapter for the FIFA World Cup™ as the two newcomers at Russia 2018, Friday’s Final Draw pitted several teams together whose head-to-head histories reach far back into the archives. highlights some of the 'throwback' matches we can expect to see at the world finals in Russia next summer.

*Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran* **A 21-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late penalty to secure a 2-0 victory in Frankfurt for Portugal over Iran in Group D at Germany 2006. The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017 will be looking to repeat that feat when Portugal face Iran and fellow countryman Carlos Queiroz in Saransk on 25 June 2018.

Also in this group, one of Morocco’s most famous World Cup wins came against Portugal at Mexico 1986 when they won 3-1 and eventually finished top of a tight Group F. Portugal finished bottom of the group during that edition. The most recently-played World Cup fixture in this group is Portugal-Spain, as the two teams came up against each other in the Round of 16 at South Africa 2010. Spain booked a quarter-final date with Paraguay by beating a Portugal side, led by none other than the aforementioned Queiroz, thanks to a 63rd-minute David Villa goal.

Group C: *France, Australia, Peru, Denmark There’s a real sense of deja vu in this group. Denmark and France will meet for the third time in the group stage. And the two will face each other in the last match of the group, just as they did on the two previous occasions. At France 1998, Les Bleus *won 2-1, while Denmark beat France at the next World Cup in Korea Republic. What will happen in the latest chapter of this fixture in Moscow on 26 June 2018?

Group D: *Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria One of the most played World Cup fixtures that will take place at Russia 2018 will be Argentina-Nigeria. The football gods must really enjoy this one, as the two nations will face each other for the fifth time. The Super Eagles must be sick of the sight of La Albiceleste*, as Argentina have beaten them all four previous times, all by one-goal margins (2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002, 1-0 in 2010 and 3-2 in 2014). Remarkably, Nigeria have drawn Argentina four times out of their five campaigns. The most recent encounter saw Lionel Messi score a first-half brace to ultimately lead the Argentinians to a thrilling 3-2 win in Porto Alegre.

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia **Brazil and Costa Rica have met twice before at the World Cup. Most notably, Costa Rica’s coach Oscar Ramirez played in the side that fell to the Brazilians 1-0 at Italy 1990. Switzerland and Brazil played to a 2-2 draw in 1950, which was the World Cup that the hosts ultimately finished runners-up.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Korea Republic This group features the most head-to-head history. You can call the Germans the ‘party spoilers’. Germany ended then-hosts Korea Republic’s Cinderella story in 2002 when Michael Ballack scored a late winner in Seoul in the semi-finals. Back in 1986, they knocked out hosts Mexico 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-finals. Peculiarly in both editions, Germany finished as runners-up. The Germans also ended Mexico’s campaign in 1998 when two late goals from Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff sealed a 2-1 comeback win in Montpellier.

Sweden’s history against teams in this group goes all the way back to 1934, when they were defeated by Germany 2-1 in Italy. When they hosted in 1958, they beat Mexico 3-0 in the opening match and then Germany 3-1 in the semi-finals before losing to Brazil in the final.

*Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England* Any football fan will hope that Belgium and England serve up the kind of thriller they did all the way back in Basel in 1954. Their opening match in Group 4 ended 4-4 with three different players scoring braces. Their only other fixture at a World Cup came in 1990 when England edged Belgium 1-0 thanks to a 119th-minute winner from David Platt. If history is any indicator, we’ll have a thriller in Kaliningrad on 28 June 2018.

Just like they did in 1998, England and Tunisia will play their opening match of the tournament against one another. Last time out in France, it was England who got the better of the Eagles of Carthage 2-0. Starting that afternoon in Marseille? Current England coach Gareth Southgate.

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan *Japan and Colombia do not have to think back too far to their last meeting at a World Cup. The two sides played out an entertaining match in Cuiaba at Brazil 2014, with Los Cafeteros* putting in a stylish display to win 4-1, as they marched on to the knockout round and sent Japan home. The Japanese get an immediate shot at revenge, though, as these two open Group H play in Russia.