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Russia to play Saudi Arabia in 2018 World Cup opener
December 2, 2017, 4:59 pm

World Cup 2018 tournament is slated to kick-off on 14 June in Moscow with the first match being played between the host-nation Russia, and Saudi Arabia in Group A. The draw to decide teams in each group was conducted on 1 December in an elaborate ceremony at the Kremlin, which was presided over by Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino along with Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona and other soccer notables.

Saying, "We will do everything to make it a major sports festival,” President Putin predicted a World Cup of "friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time."

Russia is hosting the World Cup at 12 stadiums in 11 cities across the country from 14 June to 15 July, 2018. As host, Russia automatically qualified for the World Cup. Absent from the tournament will be such long-time soccer powerhouses such as Italy, the Netherlands, and reigning South American champion Chile. The United States also failed to qualify.

The 2018 World Cup will be the first held under new leadership at FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, after corruption scandals that led to bans for leading officials including former President Sepp Blatter.

Egypt and Uruguay will join Russia and Saudi Arabia in Group A.
Group B will comprise Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and Iran.
Group C includes France, Australia, Peru, and Denmark.
Argentina Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria will make up Group D.
Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia will be in Group E.
Group F includes Germany, Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea.
Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, and England will compete in Group G.
Poland, Senegal, Colombia, and Japan will make up Group H.


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