The World Cup dream begins

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Every four years the focus of the footballing worlds turns to a 36cm golden trophy, and that time comes again on Thursday with the commencement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Eleven Bayern players harbour hopes of lifting the most coveted title in football in a month’s time in Moscow.

Yet there is still a long way to go, with the group stage the first hurdle needing to be passed. Thiago is the first FCB man in action when Spain face Portugal on Friday (20:00, all times CEST). The 2010 champions also face Iran (Wednesday 20 June, 20:00) and Morocco (Monday 25 June, 20:00) in Group B. Four years ago Spain failed to qualify from the group despite being defending champions.

Mission Title Defence

That is a fate the Germany team, including Bayern players Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rudy and Thomas Müller, want to avoid. The world champions kick off their title defence in Moscow on Sunday against Mexico (17:00). Their other opponents in Group F are Sweden (Saturday 23 June, 20:00) and South Korea (Wednesday 27 June, 16:00).

France and Corentin Tolisso also go into the tournament with title ambitions, which they will want to show from the get-go in Group C against Australia (Saturday 16 June, 12:00). Les Bleus then continue their campaign against Peru (Thursday 21 June, 17:00) and Denmark (Tuesday 21 June, 17:00).

Bayern battle in Group H

Two German champions will meet in the second round of fixtures in Group H when Poland face Colombia on Sunday 24 June at 20:00. It will likely see club teammates Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez line up against each other as opposing captains. Before that, the South American side have to play Japan (Tuesday 19 June, 14:00) while the Poles face Senegal three hours later. Lewandowski and his side then meet the Japanese in Volgograd at the same time as James & Co. face the Senegalese in Samara on Thursday 28 June at 16:00.

With all 11 Bayern players looking to secure their ticket to the last 16, that round will be contested between 30 June and 3 July. The good news here is that no FCB players can eliminate a teammate. The earliest that can happen is the quarter-finals (6 and 7 July). The semis are on 10 and 11 July before the final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium at 17:00 on 15 July, where players with dreams of lifting that golden trophy will come true.

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