World Cup: Opening Week Preview
Opening week preview
Fri., June 15, 2018
In the opening group stage, every team plays three games: one against each of the other teams in their group. The top two in each group advance to the 16-team knockout bracket, which starts June 30. All games will be shown live on either Fox or Fox Sports 1, and in Spanish on Telemundo.
See more next week, and much more info on the tournament, where to watch it, and what to drink with it, at our World Cup hub, austinchronicle.com/worldcup.
Thursday, June 14
10am: Russia-Saudi Arabia (Group A, Fox) Traditional opener in Moscow features probably the two weakest teams – and least likable political regimes – in the field, in possibly the weakest group in World Cup history.
Friday, June 15
7am: Egypt-Uruguay (A, FS1) Egypt, without injured EPL player of the year Mohamed Salah, may be the third-worst team in the field; they scored just one goal total in their three warm-up games. Rugged Uruguay should romp.
10am: Morocco-Iran (B, Fox) Effectively an early elimination game between these two opposite ends of the Muslim crescent: With Spain and Portugal in the wings, it's hard to see either team advancing without a win here.
1pm: Portugal-Spain (B, Fox) Easily the tastiest matchup of the first week: Portugal has the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo, and Spain has seven of the top 30 players in the World Cup, according to an ESPN poll of experts.
Saturday, June 16
5am: France-Australia (C, FS1) Set your clocks or DVRs for an early-morning treat, as the Socceroos are brimming with confidence, and smelling what would be a huge upset.
8am: Argentina-Iceland (D, Fox) Tiny Iceland is a sentimental favorite after an inspired run in last year's Euro tourney, but Leo Messi and Argentina are a level above.
11am: Peru-Denmark (C, FS1) The other half of the group of death: Both rank in the top dozen in the world, neither allowed a goal in any of their tune-up games.
2pm: Croatia-Nigeria (D, FS1) Croatia is a huge favorite here; Nigeria's Super Eagles can be a tough nut, but they can also crack.
Sunday, June 17
7am: Costa Rica-Serbia (E, Fox) Easy call here for Americans to root for our neighbor Ticos, who field eight MLS players on their roster.
10am: Germany-Mexico (F, FS1) Germany's the overall favorite, and Mexico's confidence is shaken by a "partying" mini-scandal and a dismal loss to Denmark in their lone European tune-up game. Tough test for El Tri.
1pm: Brazil-Switzerland (E, FS1) It doesn't have the cachet of Spain-Portugal, but these are two of the top six ranked teams in the world. Brazil looks to be in fine form with Neymar healthy; the Swiss have no real stars, but a smothering midfield that could frustrate the Samba attack.
Monday, June 18
7am: Sweden-South Korea (F, FS1) This could be ugly; Korea's the weakling of this group, but Sweden's had trouble generating any kind of attack.
10am: Belgium-Panama (G, FS1) Maybe the biggest mismatch of the first round: Belgium is stacked with talent, a legitimate top five contender, and much as I'd like to see first-timer Panama succeed, they look like cannon fodder.
1pm: Tunisia-England (G, FS1) Another mismatch, at least on paper. This is the best English squad we've seen in years, and Tunisia, despite a lofty FIFA ranking, will be out of their depth.
Tuesday, June 19
7am: Colombia-Japan (H, FS1) Japan has been at a low ebb, and fired its coach two months ago; they'll have to pull it together quick, because this Colombian squad is stacked with talent.
10am: Poland-Senegal (H, Fox) Two more talented teams round out this most balanced of groups. Robert Lewandowski may give Poland an edge.
1pm: Russia-Egypt (A, Fox) Inshallah, Mo Salah will be back to give the hosts a challenge in their second game.
Wednesday, June 20
7am: Portugal-Morocco (B, FS1) Depending on the Friday results, these second Group B games could be desperate affairs for any of the four teams.
10am: Uruguay-Saudi Arabia (A, Fox) Uruguay should cruise again, and Group A could be decided by day's end.
1pm: Iran-Spain (B, Fox) See 7am, above.
Thursday, June 21
7am: Denmark-Australia (C, FS1) Could be curtains early for one of these two, in this Group of Death.
10am: France-Peru (C, Fox) Another tricky matchup for Les Bleus.
1pm: Argentina-Croatia (D, Fox) Group favorites might both be happy with a draw.
First Round Groups
Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
With game times starting as early as 5am, and the latest kickoffs coming at 1pm, a number of venues are opening early, and/or offering breakfast and lunch options. I'll have more complete listings next week, but here are a few early highlights: Mister Tramps Sports Pub & Cafe (8565 Research) will be showing every WC game with 20 TVs to choose from... The Tavern (922 W. 12th) will be showing every game, with the exception of the 5am France vs. Australia game. Even though they are a European-based bar, they are open to all FIFA fans, and will be showing all the games on their 32 big-screen TVs... Haymaker (2310 Manor Rd.) will be open for every game, with the exception of the 5am France vs. Australia game, with drink specials and breakfast available until 10:45am... Salvation Pizza (51 Rainey) will be opening early at 10am to show the games with special breakfast tacos for $4.50, as well as $3 mimosas and $4 Bloody Marys... B.D. Riley's (1905 Aldrich & 204 E. Sixth) both locations will be open for all matches after the first round with drink specials... Crown & Anchor Pub (2911 San Jacinto) will be showing every game during their WC special hours, which are 9-2am. They will also have local and craft beer specials all day every day, which includes an all-day happy hour on Sundays... Black Sheep Lodge (2108 S. Lamar) will be open for every game, with the exception of the 5am France vs. Australia game. They will be having drink specials, including $3 Whitestone Konverter Kolsch pints and $12 pitchers, and will also have breakfast available until 10:45am... Native Hostel (807 E. Fourth) will be showing every game of the WC. They will be having drink specials, as well as a 1v1 soccer tournament with prizes... Little Woodrow's (Burnet location) will be opening at 7am to show the matches, and breakfast tacos will be available upon opening. Little Woodrow's (Sixth Street & Tech Ridge locations) will also be opening early for 1pm games. All the locations will be having worldly bucket specials available throughout the tournament.
First-Round ScheduleThu., June 14
10am: Russia-Saudi Arabia (Group A, Fox)Fri., June 15
7am: Egypt-Uruguay (A, FS1)
10am: Morocco-Iran (B, Fox)
1pm: Portugal-Spain, Sochi (B, Fox)Sat., June 16
5am: France-Australia (C, FS1)
8am: Argentina-Iceland (D, Fox)
11am: Peru-Denmark (C, FS1)
2pm: Croatia-Nigeria (D, FS1)Sun., June 17
7am: Costa Rica-Serbia (E, Fox)
10am: Germany-Mexico (F, FS1)
1pm: Brazil-Switzerland (E, FS1)Mon., June 18
7am: Sweden-South Korea (F, FS1)
10am: Belgium-Panama (G, FS1)
1pm: Tunisia-England (G, FS1)Tue., June 19
7am: Colombia-Japan (H, FS1)
10am: Poland-Senegal (H, Fox)
– END OF FIRST ROUND ROBIN –
1pm: Russia-Egypt (A, Fox)Wed., June 20
7am: Portugal-Morocco (B, FS1)
10am: Uruguay-Saudi Arabia (A, Fox)
1pm: Iran-Spain (B, Fox)Thu., June 21
7am: Denmark-Australia (C, FS1)
10am: France-Peru (C, Fox)
1pm: Argentina-Croatia (D, Fox)Fri., June 22
7am: Brazil-Costa Rica (E, FS1)
10am: Nigeria-Iceland (D, Fox)
1pm: Serbia-Switzerland (E, Fox)Sat., June 23
7am : Belgium-Tunisia (G, FS1)
10am: Germany-Sweden (F, Fox)
1pm: South Korea-Mexico (F, Fox)Sun., June 24
7am: England-Panama (G, FS1)
10am: Japan-Senegal (H, Fox)
1pm: Poland-Colombia (H, Fox)
– END OF SECOND ROUND ROBIN –Mon., June 25
9am: Uruguay-Russia (A, Fox)
9am: Saudi Arabia-Egypt (A, FS1)
1pm: Iran-Portugal (B, Fox)
1pm: Spain-Morocco (B, FS1)Tue., June 26
9am: Denmark-France (C, Fox)
9am: Australia-Peru (C, FS1)
1pm: Nigeria-Argentina (D, Fox)
1pm: Iceland-Croatia (D, FS1)Wed., June 27
9am: South Korea-Germany (F, FS1)
9am: Mexico-Sweden (F, Fox)
1pm: Serbia-Brazil (E, Fox)
1pm: Switzerland-Costa Rica (E, FS1)Thu., June 28
9am: Japan-Poland (H, FS1)
9am: Senegal-Colombia (H, Fox)
1pm: England-Belgium (G, Fox)
1pm: Panama-Tunisia (G, FS1)
Round of 16Sat., June 30
9am: C1 vs. D2 (Fox)
1pm: A1 vs. B2 (Fox)Sun., July 1
9am: B1 vs. A2 (Fox)
1pm: D1 vs. C2 (Fox)Mon., July 2
9am: E1 vs. F2 (FS1)
1pm: G1 vs. H2 (Fox)Tue., July 3
9am: F1 vs. E2 (FS1)
1pm: H1 vs. G2 (Fox)
QuarterfinalsFri., July 6
9am: Saturday's winners (FS1)
1pm: Monday's winners (FS1)Sat., July 7
9am: Tuesday's winners (Fox)
1pm: Sunday's winners (Fox)
Semifinals & FinalTue., July 10
1pm: Friday's winners (Fox)Wed., July 11
1pm: Saturday's winners (Fox)Sat., July 14
9am: Third-Place Game (Fox)Sun., July 15
10am: Championship Final (Fox)
See much more at the Chronicle’s online World Cup hub, www.austinchronicle.com/worldcup.
We're not sure if you knew this, but the World Cup is kind of a big deal. See all our coverage of the planet-wide celebration of fútbol excellence at austinchronicle.com/worldcup.