If England and Wales starting their World Cup campaigns hasn’t whetted the appetite yet, perhaps today’s fixtures, which feature Argentina and France among others, will get you in the mood. Here, City A.M. previews Tuesday’s games in Qatar.
Group C: Argentina v Saudi Arabia, 10am, ITV
Argentina, one of the favourites for the tournament, have high hopes of bouncing back from Russia 2018, their worst World Cup performance for 24 years. Now into their fourth decade without lifting the trophy, they reached the final in 2014 and this may be their last chance with Lionel Messi in their ranks. They begin against Saudi Arabia, who have only progressed from the group stage once, in 1994.
Group D: Denmark v Tunisia, 1pm, ITV
Somewhat surprisingly, this is only Denmark’s sixth appearance at a World Cup finals. Of their previous five, they’ve progressed out of the group stages on all but one occasion – in France 1998. They face Tunisia, who haven’t escaped their group in the last five attempts. Tunisia won their first World Cup match, against Mexico in Argentina, and their last, against Panama in 2018, but were winless in between. In a group with France and Australia, both sides will be eyeing second place come the end of the preliminary stages.
Group C: Mexico v Poland, 4pm, BBC
Despite their patchy record in qualifying for the tournament – eight in 18 attempts, including a period as a USSR satellite state – Poland have actually finished third twice, in 1974 and 1982. In contrast, Mexico have featured at all but four World Cups but have never made it beyond the quarter-finals. Since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Poland have won their final group match after losing their opening two in all of their appearances. Mexico, who co-hold the record for the most second round appearances – along with Brazil – beat defending champions Germany in their opening match of the last World Cup.
Group D: France v Australia, 7pm, BBC
Holders France begin their defence against Australia, who they also faced in the group stage four years ago in Russia. Back then Les Bleus won 2-1, thanks to an Antoine Griezmann penalty and Paul Pogba’s shot deflecting in off Aziz Behich for the winner. Pogba and N’Golo Kante are absent this time, as is Karim Benzema, ruled out with an injury suffered in training last week. Australia are the lowest ranked team in Group D.