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2018 World Cup: A tale of two derbies

(SP)RUSSIA-MOSCOW-SOCCER-2018 FIFA WORLD CUP-DRAW

The result of the draw is shown on the screen during the Final Draw of the FIFA World Cup 2018 at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, capital of Russia, Dec. 1, 2017. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi)

By sportswriters Yao Youming and Xue Yanwen

MOSCOW, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Iberian Peninsula derby Portugal-Spainand "English Premier League derby" Belgium-England might be the deadliest rivals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup group draw.

Portugal will meet Spain in the first game in Group B during their 2018 WC campaign, while Belgium, which harbor many EPL players, will face England in the third game in Group G, according to the group draw on Moscow time Friday night.

The Iberian Peninsula derby is also a game between two champions -- Portugal, the 2016 European champions, against Spain, the 2010 World Cup champions. It might not be an easy kickoff for either team in the 2018 campaign as both failed to win their first games of the 2010 and 2014 editions. Who win this derby may well enter the last 16 directly as Morocco and Iranare less competitive in Group B.

In Group G, many EPL teammates will become rivals. Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, Hot Spurs' Jan Vertonghen and several EPL players might play for Belgium against Man United's Ashley Young, City's Raheem Sterling, Spurs' Harry Kane. In what mood the two favorites will face with their EPL colleagues in their last game in the group may depend on the results of two previous games playing against Panama and Tunisia.

Despite the two interesting derbies, Group D is considered probably the most competitive of all. Argentina just qualified in the last round of preliminaries. Both Croatia and Iceland made into elimination stage of the 2016 European Football Championship. Iceland even entered the last eight. Nigeria are one of the toughest seeds in Pot Four.

Playing against Uruguay, Egyptand Saudi Arabia in Group A, hosts Russiaare expected to make it through. But they will then find it difficult to go further as they might encounter Portugal or Spain in the round of 16.

The record five Asian teams may face total destruction after three group matches.

Just-qualified Australia will have to survive games against two European sides, Franceand Denmark. South Koreawill face defending champions Germanyand Sweden, which stopped four-time World Cup title owner Italy entering the 2018 campaign.

Japanmight be kicked out by Poland' s Robert Lewandowski and Colombia's James Rodriguez. The pride and confidence of Iranians built during Asia preliminaries might be smashed by the two blades of the scissors Portugal and Spain. As the lowest-ranked seed in the campaign, Saudi Arabia will struggle along with Egypt.

[ Editor: meng ]