The World Cup finals have a history of producing shock results, such as when the USA beat England in 1950, or Cameroon defeated the defending champions Argentina in 1990. This time round in Qatar the potential for upset would appear to be even greater given that some of the major teams have had little time for preparation, or opportunity to acclimatise to the conditions of the Middle East in November.
Here are some games that could see upsets.
England v Iran
When Iran were drawn out of the hat in the same group against England, they were assumed to be the weakest team in group B. However, the Three Lions should underestimate the Iranians at their peril.
For example, they have been one of the most successful teams in Asia for decades, and won three consecutive AFC Cups between 1968 and 1976.
At the World Cup in Moscow four years ago, they almost got out of their group, beating Morocco in their opening game, before suffering a narrow loss to Spain. They then held Portugal to a draw in a match that on another day they might have won.
That team has only got stronger, with 13 of their 25 man squad plying their trade in Europe, including Alireza Jahanbaksh and Saman Ghoddos who both have Premier League experience.
And, they are managed by Carlos Queiroz, whose CV includes stints with Real Madrid and Manchester United, who is a wily and cunning operator.
Iran topped their qualifying group ahead of South Korea and have one more advantage – geographical proximity. A little over 500 miles separates them from Qatar and they are likely to have the bulk of support in the stadium.
Germany v Costa Rica
As ever, Germany are expected to do well at the World Cup, although their form recently has not been good, and they narrowly avoided relegation form their Nations League group. And they will still remember the nightmare of Russia from four years ago, when they suffered the ignominy of finishing bottom of their group.
For veterans like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller this will be their last World Cup, but having been drawn in the same group as Spain and Japan was not the easiest outcome for Hansi Flick’s side.
That means Costa Rica have been cast in the role as Group E whipping boys, but although they just scraped through in CONCAF qualifying, they should not be discounted altogether.
After all, eight years ago, this is a side that managed to finish above Uruguay, Italy and England in their group, and they do possess players like PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas with European experience.
Belgium v Canada
Belgium again head into a World Cup with high hopes, although, there is a sense that it may be now or never for their golden generation to make an impact at the international level. Canada, though, are a potential banana skin, even though this will be their first World Cup appearance for 36 years.
The fact that they topped CONCACAF qualifying, ahead of Mexico, the USA and Costa Rica is deserving of respect in itself, but they are also blessed with players who are already stars in Europe, including Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich and Jonathan David of Lille.
The Canadian team is young, fast and skilled, and if Belgium are not prepared to match their intensity, they could find themselves in trouble.
Argentina v Saudi Arabia
Although Argentina are among the favourites to win the World Cup, they do not always start tournaments well, and an early loss could see them come under intense pressure. Just four years ago, they almost failed to get out of the group stages, precipitating a national crisis.
Certainly, Saudi Arabia are not just cannon fodder. They are making their second successive World Cup appearance, and their qualifying campaign was impressive. They comfortably topped their group in the second round, and, in the third round, finished ahead of both Japan and Australia.
Their midfield duo of Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari both have scored 17 goals each for the national team so need to be watched carefully.
Again, like Iran, they will be heavily backed and this will almost be like a home game for them.
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