The draw for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 is done and it has thrown out some intriguing fixtures.
While the fate of eight teams battling for three spots (including Wales and Scotland), the venues and kick-off times have yet to be decided, there is still plenty we do know.
So what are the highlights of the draw?
An opening-day omen?
The opening game of a World Cup can set the tone for what is to come. Cameroon beating reigning champions Argentina in 1990 and Senegal stunning holders France in 2002 are particularly memorable first-day moments.
And, 20 years on, Senegal will have the chance to topple one of Europe’s leading sides once again when they kick off the tournament against the Netherlands on 21 November.
When the draw was made, it was anticipated Qatar v Ecuador would be the opening fixture – 51st against 46th in the world – but when Fifa announced the confirmed schedule it was the meeting of the African champions and Louis van Gaal’s Dutch team at Al Thumama Stadium which emerged as the tournament opener.
Unusually, there are four games on the opening day of this condensed World Cup, with England taking on Iran in the competition’s second match. It will be the first time England have played on the opening day of a World Cup since 1966. An omen?
Hope for the home nations
Any manager will tell you there is no such thing as an easy draw but England will feel they have an excellent opportunity to get out of Group B.
The Three Lions came close to ending their long wait for a first major tournament win since 1966 when they were beaten by Italy in the Euro 2020 final last summer, and they will be hoping to go one better this time.
Gareth Southgate’s side are among the favourites to win and they kick off their group campaign against an Iran side they have never faced in a senior international competition.
England will also face the United States and potentially a British derby against Scotland or Wales should either of those sides see off Ukraine in a play-off.
“When you’re seeded you get the advantage of missing out on those big six or seven teams,” England boss Gareth Southgate said. “Most of the first seeds would be pleased with the group they get.
“The USA are an interesting one. They’ve got some very good players and we know what they could be capable of, so that one in particular is an intriguing one.”
And if either Scotland or Wales do qualify, both will feel confident they have a realistic chance of at least reaching the knockout stages.
Ghana seek Suarez revenge 12 years on
Ghana and Uruguay meet in Group H in what could be the biggest grudge game of the tournament.
The African side were inches and seconds away from reaching the 2010 semi-finals but Luis Suarez handled a shot on the line at the end of extra time. He was sent off but Asamoah Gyan missed his spot-kick and Uruguay won on penalties.
“We believe that it will be revenge time,” Ghana FA president Kurt Okraku told BBC Sport Africa.
“We thought we had clearly won that particular game but for that save from Suarez. It is very interesting for us to play against them again.
“It is important that we all set the record straight.”
Atletico Madrid striker Suarez is likely to be in the Uruguay squad for Qatar.
Spain v Germany – game of the group stage?
There is only one proper meeting of giants in the group stage in Qatar – Spain v Germany in the second round of Group E games on 27 November.
The 2010 and 2014 winners will both be looking to do better than the last World Cup, when Spain went out in the last 16 and Germany did not make it out of their group.
Spain won 6-0 last time they met, in November 2020 in the Nations League. But Germany are a team revived under manager Hansi Flick.
History set to repeat itself for France?
France beat Croatia to win the last edition of the World Cup to add to the title they won in 1998, and there’s an interesting correlation with those two tournaments and this year’s edition in Qatar.
They were drawn alongside Denmark in Group D on Friday and on the two occasions they went on to lift the trophy previously they also played the Danes in the group stage.
Should they get out of their group there is a possibility they could meet the winners of the England/Scotland/Wales group in the quarter-finals.
“France against England in the quarter-finals would be fantastic,” said French journalist Julien Laurens. “There are so many links between the countries and it would be one of those ties people will be excited to watch.
“They are two huge contenders with Brazil, Argentina and one or two others. France would be worried about facing England, just as England would be worried about facing France.”
Can another English boss be tournament’s ‘underdog story’?
Canada, managed by English coach John Herdman, have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
But they have a difficult group, with the teams who finished second and third in Russia four years ago – Croatia and Belgium – in their way. Not to mention Africa’s second-ranked side Morocco.
At Mexico 1986, Canada finished bottom of their group without scoring. Maybe a more realistic challenge is to just do better than that.
“We were really happy with the draw,” Herdman told BBC Sport. “We wanted some big teams to make sure we get that opportunity to be an underdog and test ourselves and also a team like Morocco, who are a good side and one we won’t underestimate. We fancy our chances.
“There is no real pressure on this team. We come with no fear and just opportunity in our hearts to see if we can be the underdog story of this World Cup.”
Familiar faces for Brazil
Brazil, who overtook Belgium to go top of the Fifa world rankings the day before the draw, will know plenty about their opponents.
They have played Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in the group stages of the past two World Cups.
In 2014, they beat Cameroon 4-1 and in 2018 drew 1-1 with Switzerland and beat Serbia 2-0.
That is just as well because Brazil have not tested themselves against a European team in almost three years because of the Covid pandemic and the Uefa Nations League, meaning European teams have fewer dates for friendlies. That lack of action against European teams is something that has been concerning Brazil boss Tite.
Messi v Lewandowski
It has already been a good year for Senegal after they won the Africa Cup of Nations in January and they are likely to be happy with the group they have been placed in.
The African champions will play Netherlands, Ecuador and hosts Qatar in Group A – avoiding the top-ranked teams – and will be hoping to at least repeat their display at the 2002 World Cup.
Back then they enjoyed that opening-day win over France on their way to finishing second in their group and progressed to the quarter finals, where they were beaten after extra time by Turkey.