The official World Cup draw on Friday saw many national teams with geopolitical history come together in the same groups.
Here are the games that will be played in the tournament between countries that share an eventful past.
Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia
The derby match will see both countries share a long history of shared mutual interest come together. Most recently, the neighbors are cooperating militarily in Yemen and politically in their joint actions against Qatar.
And when it comes to football, for Egypt, it’s a case of revenge as Saudi Arabia won Egypt 5-1 in the Confederations Cup in 1999.
Saudi Arabia vs. Russia
The match between Saudi Arabia and Russia will bring together the two largest oil producers. The match comes amid a development in ties between the two countries as relations remained somehow distant considering the alliance between Riyadh and Washington on one hand, and the alliance between Moscow and Tehran on another. King Salman’s visit to Russia in October marked re-establishing geopolitical balances in the Middle East as Riyadh, the US’ historical ally, wants to have diverse options at a time it’s challenging Iran and Russia in Syria.
Spain vs. Morocco
Although there is a rule that stipulates keeping teams from the same confederation apart in the same group stage, Spain will play against two countries that it shares borders with: Morocco and Portugal. The border between Morocco and Spain is located along the cities of Ceuta and Melilla which Morocco believes they are colonized. These two cities are viewed as the immigrants’ gate to Europe.
England vs. Tunisia
This match brings back painful memories as during the 1998 World Cup, the match between these two countries in Marseille led to two days of violent clashes.
Switzerland vs. Costa Rica
The match between these two marks a match between two out of the ten countries which opted for diplomatic neutrality. Switzerland has been a neutral country since signing the Treaty of Paris in 1815. Costa Rica became neutral in 1949 when it abolished its military and in 1983 it declared “complete neutrality.”
Belgium vs. Panama
Panama is a tax haven as it includes the law firm Mossack Fonseca, made famous by the Panama Papers, while the EU commission has had its eyes on Belgium due to its tax benefits which attract fortunes and multinational companies.