Rivals Portugal, Spain to meet on World Cup match day 2


December 02, 2017
Argentina football legend Diego Maradona holds up the team name of Spain at the 2018 FIFA World Cup draw in the Kremlin in Moscow, yesterday. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Rivals Portugal, Spain to meet on World Cup match day 2

MOSCOW, Russia (AP):

Spain and Portugal, the last two European champions, were drawn Friday to meet in the first round of the World Cup, one day after Russia opens the tournament in one of the easiest groups of the competition.

The Russians will play their first match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14 against Saudi Arabia the only team ranked lower than the hosts. Egypt and Uruguay are also in Group A.

Spain, which eliminated Portugal in the last 16 on the way to winning its first World Cup in 2010, will open against the European champions on June 15 in Sochi. Group B also includes Morocco and Iran.

"Everyone wanted to avoid Spain in Pot 2. We inherited it. Thanks for that," Morocco coach Herve Renard said. "We have to face these two ogres (Spain and Portugal) and do everything to qualify for the last 16, even if it seems very difficult."

Defending champion Germany will open against Mexico in its quest to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil in 1962. The Germans will then face Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

"We got opponents that are not unknown to us," Germany captain Manuel Neuer said. "That's what I like best, when we know what to expect."

Five-time world champion Brazil is in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. That means the Brazilians will not play any games in its base city of Sochi.

"We couldn't control that," Brazil coach Tite said. "Despite the (travel) distances, there are quick way to get there."

Iceland, the country with the smallest population of the 32 World Cup teams, will face qualifying opponent Croatia in Group D along with Argentina and Nigeria.

"Croatia has an excellent midfield, Nigeria is unpredictable and has some very fast players, and Iceland comes in with little pressure," Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

Another newcomer, Panama, will take on England, Tunisia and Belgium in Group G.

"We've been good at writing off teams and then getting beaten by them," said England coach Gareth Southgate, who is preparing for his first tournament leading the team.

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