Brazil-Serbia, France-Denmark, Spain-Germany, Portugal-Uruguay… No need to wait for the round of 16 of the World Cup to have good results on the calendar. The first round will already offer quite a shock to Qatar.
Qatar-Ecuador, Sunday November 20 (5 p.m.)
This will therefore be the opening match of this World Cup. Led by their striker Enner “Superman” Valencia, today at Fenerbahçe after notably playing for West Ham, the Ecuadorians come to Qatar with the dream of doing as well as in 2006 when they reached the round of 16, in losing only 1-0 to David Beckham’s England. Directly qualified as host country to participate in the first World Cup in its history, Qatar hopes for its part to succeed in its entry into the running before rubbing shoulders with Senegal and the Netherlands. For this, the emirate is counting on the experience of its coach, the Spaniard Félix Sanchez Bas, appointed in July 2017 and known for having spent ten years with the young people of FC Barcelona.
Mexico-Poland, Tuesday November 22 (5 p.m.)
If it finishes at the top of group D, the France team knows that it will face the second in group C composed of Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland. Difficult not to put a coin on the Mexicans or the Poles, a priori much better armed than the Saudis but undoubtedly inferior to the Albiceleste of Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi. The staff of the Blues should therefore closely follow this more than interesting duel between a regular at the World Cup (17th participation) and a selection which relies above all on the talent of its captain, Robert Lewandowski, to reach the round of 16. . Especially since this World Cup should be the last of the Barça striker, who will be 35 in August.
France-Australia, Tuesday November 22 (8 p.m.)
After months of debates, doubts and questions, the Blues will attack the defense of their world title at the Al Janoub stadium (Al Wakrah) against the Australians who are determined to seal the start of the tournament for the men of Didier Deschamps. 1998 world champion and 2000 European champion as a player, “DD” took the Tricolores to the roof of the world in Russia in 2018, before experiencing a setback at the Euro in 2021 (eighth finals ). For the first time, he knows that his future will depend on the results of France in Qatar and therefore has no room for error. Deprived of certain captains (Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté), he has already announced the end of the 3-5-2 tested in recent months for the return to a four-man defense, the strength of the Russian World Cup.
Brazil-Serbia, Thursday November 24 (8 p.m.)
It’s a team that logically scares everyone. And she has some serious arguments to make. With captains on all lines (Alisson, Ederson, Thiago Silva, Casemiro…), talents with immense potential (Vinicius, Rodrygo, Antony…) and a star in great shape since the start of the season (Neymar ). Brazil, at the top of the FIFA rankings, will try to win a sixth world title in Qatar. And to make people forget the disappointments of 2014 (humiliation at home by Germany in the semi-finals, 7-1) and 2018 (elimination in the quarters by Belgium 2-1). The Seleçao will make their debut in the tournament on November 24 against Serbia. A big entry test against the partners of Dusan Tadic and Dusan Vlahovic.
France-Denmark, Saturday November 26 (5 p.m.)
French and Danes have become accustomed to meeting in the World Cup and for the Blues, it is generally all or nothing. In 1998 and 2018, it brought them luck and they got two stars. But in 2002, Roger Lemerre’s team was beaten 2-0 in a catastrophic group stage (one draw and two defeats), sanctioned by an elimination that was embarrassing to say the least for the defending champions. In a group within their reach, Kylian Mbappé and his gang will want to avoid such a fate and we must therefore not miss out on Christian Eriksen’s Denmark, who remains on a very convincing victory in the League of Nations (2-0), in September, an evening when the Blues had taken the water in defense.
Spain-Germany, Sunday November 27 (8 p.m.)
This is the big poster not to be missed. With on one side four World Cups and three Euros for Mannschaft, and on the other a World Cup and three Euros for Roja. These two giants will face each other in group E for what is obviously, on paper, the most anticipated duel of the group stage. The two teams have already met four times in the World Cup, with two German victories, in 1966 in pools and in 1982 during the second round of pools, a draw in 1994 again in pools and a Spanish success in the semi-finals in 2010, on the way to the title. More recently, Spain stuck a 6-0 to Germany in 2020, in the League of Nations. An affront to erase for the teammates of Thomas Müller.
Portugal-Uruguay, Monday November 28 (8 p.m.)
Luis Suarez, Darwin Nunez and Edinson Cavani against Cristiano Ronaldo. But also Federico Valverde, who has become a special player and one of the best midfielders in the world, against Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva. Beautiful people for a hell of a clash between the two main favorites of a strong and homogeneous group H, which also includes Ghana and South Korea. Portugal, who qualified with difficulty by winning the play-offs against Turkey and then North Macedonia, will know more about their ambitions. For its part, the Celeste has regained confidence since Diego Alonso took office last December to replace the experienced Oscar Tabarez, sacked after 15 years at the helm of the selection.
Iran – United States, Tuesday November 29 (8 p.m.)
From a sporting point of view, this match does not promise to be the most exciting of this first round. Even if the American collective, made up of safe bets like Weston McKennie (Juventus) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) could surprise some. But it is above all the political aspect that gives its appeal to this poster between two countries whose diplomatic relations have been broken since 1980. It will also be a remake of the 1998 World Cup in France. Iran and the United States had faced each other in chickens in the presence of Madeleine Albright, then American Secretary of State. The Iranians had won 2-1 but it was the pregame that was remembered, with the two teams reunited for the photo before kick-off and the white flowers presented by the Iranians to the Americans.
Tunisia-France, Wednesday November 30 (4 p.m.)
For Didier Deschamps, the ideal scenario would be to have ensured the qualification before this match to be able to operate a small review of the workforce against Tunisia. A selection which is participating in its sixth World Cup and which has in its ranks several well-known players from the French championship such as Wahbi Khazri. At 31, the child from Ajaccio, not always a starter this season with Montpellier, remains the most experienced player on this team. “The Blues are the favourites. We are far from it. But it’s the dream of many players to face them in the World Cup. It’s a dream that will come true”, he confided on RMC after the World Cup draw. Tunisia have never beaten the Blues in four games.
Croatia-Belgium, Thursday 1 December (4 p.m.)
The outgoing finalist against the third of the last World Cup. Always guided by Zlatko Dalic and his master to play Luka Modric, for whom it will be the last World Cup before a well-deserved international retirement, Croatia will want to take advantage of this match to send a strong signal to the competition. Same thing for the Red Devils, who land in Qatar without too much certainty. Top scorer in the history of the Belgian selection (65 goals), Romelu Lukaku is there but he is weakened by repeated physical glitches. Just like Eden Hazard, lacking confidence and playing time at Real Madrid. On the Croatian side, Ivan Rakitic and Duje Caleta-Car were left at home.