Portugal, Spain favourites but Santos wary of Morocco and Iran

Spain to kick off World Cup campaign against Portugal

WORLD CUP Spain to kick off World Cup campaign against Portugal

"It's a great team with fantastic players and a great coach (Herve Renard)", added Queiroz. A clash between England and ever-improving Belgium will be the one to watch.

Portugal will once more look to Ronaldo to carry the hopes of his nation in what is likely to be his last World Cup at 32.

Former England striker-turned television presenter Gary Lineker oversaw the draw and his nation will be pleased after Diego Maradona, who knocked Lineker's England out of the 1986 World Cup with his infamous "Hand of God" goal, drew Gareth Southgate's men in Group G with Belgium, Tunisia and debutants Panama.

"They can fire me, I don't care, but it's time to express my opinion because the Iranian fans deserve that and the players deserve full support to be ready for this competition".

"We've been good at writing teams off and then getting beaten. The only thing we know is that [Liverpool forward Mohamed] Salah plays for Egypt ... and that [Edinson] Cavani and Luis [Suarez] play for Uruguay".

Japan will face a tough task to finish in the top two of Group H that features Robert Lewandowski's Poland, Sadio Mane's Senegal and Colombia.

England begin against Tunisia in Volgograd - in a stadium built on one of the main sites of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest episodes of the Second World War - on Monday, June 18.

World Cup newcomers Iceland were meanwhile handed a match against Lionel Messi and Argentina on June 16 - a draw coach Heimar Hallgrimsson described as "romantic".

"Spain are the natural favourites", insisted Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo will be 33 come next year's finals, meaning this will probably be his last shot at World Cup glory.

The draw also laid out all sides' potential routes to the final, and revealed such tantalising prospects as a quarter-final between Spain and Argentina, and possible semi-finals of Spain against Germany or France versus Brazil.

Lionel Messi and Argentina had one of the more hard draws of the top seeds, getting two European teams - Croatia and debutants Iceland - as well as Nigeria.

Germany, winners of the 2014 event and FIFA's top-ranked team, will face Mexico before taking on Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

"Other countries have been watching us over the last few years and they have progressed and they have great players. This will be an exciting World Cup".

Neymar's Brazil must negotiate a group including Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia as the South Americans seek a sixth title.

Brasil's arch rivals Argentina looked anything but convincing in qualification, only sealing a place at the tournament because of a magical performance from Messi in the final group game against Ecuador.

Australia have been in disarray since qualifying and are now searching for a new coach following the resignation of Ange Postecoglou.

"None of us wanted an easy group", Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said.

Group H, the only group not to include a former World Cup victor, features world No 7 Poland, No 13 Colombia, along with Senegal and Asian giants Japan.

Japan's veteran coach Vahid Halilhodzic vowed to avenge his side's humiliating 4-1 thrashing by Colombia at the 2014 World Cup.

Host nation Russian Federation will face Saudi Arabia in the tournament-opening match on June 14 in Moscow.

Russian Federation face a host of dangers in Group A in the shape of Uruguay, led by Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, and Egypt, spearheaded by Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah.

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