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 B, including the manager, the man to watch out for, their strength and their biggest weakness.
FIFA ranking: 4 Odds: 25-1
World Cup best: Third place (1966)
THE BOSS: Fernando Santos
Has hardly put a foot wrong since taking over in 2014, winning Euro 2016.
THE STAR: Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal’s captain, talisman and all-time top scorer is motivated by a desire to keep proving he is the best in the world.
With that drive, Ronaldo will drag Portugal as far as he possibly can.
THE PROSPECT: Bernardo Silva
As one of Manchester City’s supporting cast, the 23-year-old winger will be fresh and raring to go.
Santos’ team are well drilled and confident, remaining unbeaten at Euro 2016 and winning nine of their 10 qualifiers.
They have three ageing centre backs. Bruno Alves, Pepe and Jose Fonte have an average age of 35.
Cristiano Ronaldo is motivated by a desire to keep proving he is the best in the world
FIFA ranking: 10 Odds: 13-2
World Cup best: Winners (2010)
THE BOSS: Fernando Hierro
It doesn’t get much tougher than taking over a team with 48 hours to go before their World Cup opener. Spain remain the strongest side in the group but the 50-year-old must draw on all his experience starring for Real Madrid if they are not to regret ditching Julen Lopetegui.
THE STAR: David Silva
The Man City midfielder is given licence to roam. He dovetails so well with Andres Iniesta. The interchange between these two holds the key to Spain’s success in Russia.
THE PROSPECT: Marco Asensio
Hailed as the future for Real Madrid and Spain, the 22-year-old can shine with his pace, dribbling and thunderous left foot.
In David de Gea, Spain have the world’s best goalkeeper. His save percentage of 80.3 this season was the best in the Premier League.
They are slow starters, losing their first match in 2010 and 2014. With the runners-up in this group likely to face Uruguay, it is vital they hit the ground running against Portugal.
Manchester City David Silva dovetails so well with Andres Iniesta, which will be crucial
FIFA ranking: 37 Odds: 750-1
World Cup best: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014)
THE BOSS: Carlos Queiroz
Former Portugal coach will be out to stun his home country.
THE STAR: Alireza Jahanbakhsh
AZ striker hit 21 goals for the Dutch side, becoming the first Asian to top-score in a European league.
THE PROSPECT: Saman Ghoddos
The midfielder had a hand in both Ostersunds goals when they shocked Arsenal 2-1 in the Europa League.
Their defence kept 12 successive clean sheets in qualifying. They will need to show similar steel against Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo.
With such focus on defence, they scored just 10 times in their last 10 qualifiers.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (left) hit 21 goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar during the last campaign
FIFA ranking: 41 Odds: 500-1
World Cup best: Last 16 (1986)
THE BOSS: Herve Renard
Frenchman won the Africa Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Ivory Coast.
THE STAR: Mehdi Benatia
Rock at the heart of Juventus’ defence for the last two seasons.
THE PROSPECT: Achraf Hakimi
The full back, 19, broke into the Real Madrid team this year, playing nine times and scoring twice.
Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech is a free-kick expert and was named this season’s player of the year in Holland.
Not enough firepower. Their top scorer is Ayoub El Kaabi with 11 goals.
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.