Middle East

World Cup 2018: Egypt and Saudi Arabia paired together in Red Sea derby

Middle Eastern allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia are set to face each other at next year's football World Cup after being drawn in Group A – the same as host nation Russia.

Tunisia are set to play England in their opening game, as well as facing off against Belgium and Panama in Group G.

Iran and Morocco may face an uphill struggle to get out of the group stages: they face Europeans champions Portugal and former World Cup winners Spain in Group B.

Only two teams can qualify from each group. It's the first time that four Arab nations have qualified for the World Cup Finals.

Iran qualified for the fifth time in the history of the tournament. They have been managed by former Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon coach Carlos Queiroz for the last six years.

Under his leadership, Iran have gone on to become the highest-ranking Asian side. However, the team has only won once at the World Cup Finals, famously beating the United States 2-1 at France 1998.

First time for two decades

For Morocco, this will be the first time in 20 years that the North African country has qualified, beating Ivory Coast to reach next year's tournament. The team will be captained by 30-year-old Mehdia Benatia, who plays for Italian side Juventus.

Hopefully Morocco shocks the world. https://t.co/zRL6FT3lmH

— Igbo King (@1ncognito__) December 1, 2017

Fellow North African nation Tunisia, known as the Carthage Eagles, won the African Cup of Nations in 2004. Russia 2018 will be their fifth World Cup Finals.

Egypt's qualification – their first since 1990 – proved tense for their supporters: they only secured entry to Russia 2018 after Liverpool striker Mohammad Salah scored in the 94th minute against Congo. Saudi Arabia finished second in Asian qualifying Group B behind Japan, the fifth time that the country has qualified.

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