The four-year countdown is over, the World Cup finally kicks off on Thursday and it promises to be yet another scintillating tournament.
Sportsmail’s MARTIN KEOWN gives his rundown of each team in Group A, including the manager, the man to watch out for, their strength and their biggest weakness.
FIFA ranking: 14 Odds: 28-1
World Cup best: Two-time winners (1930, 1950)
THE BOSS: Oscar Tabarez
The 71-year-old is at his fourth World Cup with Uruguay, reaching the semi-finals in 2010.
THE STAR: Edinson Cavani
This forward’s movement has always impressed me, while he has formed a fearsome partnership with Luis Suarez. There should be plenty of goals for him in this group.
THE PROSPECT: Rodrigo Bentancur
Box-to-box midfielder, 20, who did the Double with Juventus this season. Has made that role his own for Uruguay in the last year.
Not only are they prolific in attack, Uruguay have rock-solid Atletico Madrid pair Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin at the heart of their defence.
Uruguay will be hoping Suarez stays out of trouble after his two controversial World Cups.
There should be plenty of goals for Edinson Cavani in this group if he performs
FIFA ranking: 45 Odds: 250-1
World Cup best: Group stage (1934, 1990)
THE BOSS: Hector Cuper
Experienced Argentinian who reached the Champions League final twice with Valencia.
THE STAR: Mohamed Salah
Such is the Liverpool star’s status in Egypt that he was runner-up in their 2018 presidential election. The nation will be willing him to quickly recover from his shoulder injury.
THE PROSPECT: Trezeguet
Not the ex-France striker but midfielder Mahmoud Hassan, 23, who has taken the World Cup winner’s name because of the pair’s striking resemblance.
Egypt rode to their first World Cup since 1990 on a tide of emotion. They must harness that positive energy if they are to get out of this group.
Everything hinges on Salah’s fitness. He is a hero to Egypt but if he fails to recover from injury, it’s hard to see them going far.
Such is Mohamed Salah’s status in Egypt he was runner-up in their 2018 presidential election
FIFA ranking: 70 Odds: 50-1
World Cup best: Fourth place (1966, AS USSR)
THE BOSS: Stanislav Cherchesov
Former Legia Warsaw boss took charge after Russia’s poor Euro 2016.
THE STAR: Igor Akinfeev
Seasoned CSKA Moscow keeper will need all his experience to shut out the hotshots in this group.
THE PROSPECT: Fyodor Smolov
Scored 14 goals in 22 games for Krasnodar, attracting interest from Wolves and West Ham.
Do not underestimate home advantage. This is not a great Russia team but this tournament could be a stepping stone.
None of this squad have tasted much success at the World Cup. Russia have not reached the round of 16 since 1986.