Russia 2018: Top 10 FIFA World Cup games to watch in the group stage

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is steadily approaching, so grab your calendars and be ready to circle down some important dates. As always, there are tougher groups, easier groups and intriguing ones, and there are also numerous matches that already have fans of the sport salivating. Here are the top 10 games from the group stage that you need to be glued in front of a TV or mobile device to watch this summer (ordered by dates):

1. Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, June 14 at 11 a.m. ET

It's the opening game at the cup, and you can't miss it. The openers are always fun because the host is playing and it's a chance for them to get off to a flying start or for the sky to start falling.

2. Portugal vs. Spain, June 15 at 2 p.m. ET

Arguably the tastiest match of the group stage, both teams feel that they can win the whole cup. You've got the 2010 World Cup champs in Spain and the reigning Euro 2016 winners with Cristiano Ronaldo. A lot of these players know each other so well, and it's always fun when neighboring countries and rivals get together.

3. Argentina vs. Iceland, June 16 at 9 a.m. ET

This could be Lionel Messi's last chance at winning the World Cup, and Argentina opens with tiny but fierce Iceland. Argentina should win, but they were also 0-0 against Iran in 2014 until Messi's late magic. Iceland has chance to pull off a shocker, though it isn't expected. 

4. Mexico vs. Germany, June 17 at 11 a.m. ET

Probably the second best match-up of the group stage. If either team loses this one, pressure is on big time the rest of the group stage. A lot at stake.

5. Belgium vs. Panama, June 18 at 11 a.m. ET

Belgium is, again, a dark horse, but this is also Panama's first ever World Cup. It's always amazing to see the faces of the fans of such a small nation as they experience this for the first time. Panama probably won't do much, but they are just happy to be there. 

6. France vs. Peru, June 21 at 8 a.m. ET

Peru has shown as much heart as any team in qualifying and have tons of speed in attack. They've gutted out some good results, like 0-0 at Argentina late in qualifying, and will be looking to do something similar here.

7. Uruguay vs. Russia, June 25 at 10 a.m. ET

Uruguay seems to almost always get paired with the tournament hosts, and they usually do a good job against them (2011 Copa America in Argentina and 2010 World Cup in South Africa come to mind). This could be the match Russia needs to win to get through.

8. Nigeria vs. Argentina, June 26 at 2 p.m. ET

The Super Eagles just crushed Argentina 4-2 in a friendly last month, but that wasn't a game that tells us much. It's still fun when they get together, and this is the fourth time out of the last five World Cups that they have been in the same group. 

9. Mexico vs. Sweden, June 27 at 10 a.m. ET

Assuming El Tri doesn't beat Germany in the first game, this would be the one Juan Carlos Osorio's team has to have to get through. Mexico and Sweden will likely be fighting for second place, with this one the decider. 

10. England vs. Belgium, June 28 at 2 p.m. ET

Both teams may have their fate sealed by this time, but they are going to want to try and avoid likely Poland or Colombia in the next round (I'd rather play Poland). These are two talented teams that haven't lived up to expectations, so they'll want to enter the knockout stage with momentum.

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Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Full Bio

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