2018 World Cup: A Complete Guide to Each Group

With the world's biggest sporting event nearly upon us, let's take a look at which teams, players and matchups to watch in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

On a cold winter’s day this past December, representatives from each of the 32 nations to qualify for Russia 2018 waited with expectation inside a Kremlin amphitheater, eager to discover which teams they’d be grouped with and what road they’d have to travel in the following summer’s FIFA World Cup.

As the ping-pong balls were plucked from their ornate glass bowls by various legends of the game, the picture for the month-long tournament began to take shape, with opponents both familiar and unknown suddenly linked together in their quest to make history.

The whole affair is grandiose in an over-the-top kind of way -- should we expect anything less from FIFA? -- but the tension felt by those affected by the literal luck of the draw couldn't be more real, more down-to-earth, more human.

No doubt some managers and federation heads left the proceedings with the weight of the world on their shoulders, facing long odds to keep their country's dreams of a deep tournament run afloat. Others surely had a smile on their face, knowing fate had handed them an easier path than expected.

But regardless of individual mood, all would've walked into Red Square that night filled with the satisfaction that comes with reaching the premier tournament in their sport and feeling the enormity of the task ahead.

It’s been six months now since the draw took place that day in Moscow, just enough time for the 23-man squads to be selected, for (almost) all the build-up exhibition matches to be played and -- most importantly -- for us to analyze and re-analyze every angle of what’s to take place over the next four weeks in Russia.

In the group-by-group examination ahead, you'll find the results of that analysis, including a breakdown of numberFire's projected order of finish in each of the eight FIFA World Cup groups as well details on which teams, players and matches to keep tabs on this summer. There will also be references to our nERD-based power rankings as well as our stage odds. For those of you looking for betting advice, we also have betting guides for each group.

Whether you're an uncapped newcomer to the world's game or have been down since the days of Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore, we hope you enjoy our look inside the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Let's get it started, beginning with Group A.