The four teams in each of the eight World Cup groups are seeded according to FIFA rankings, so obviously there is a heavyweight favourite, an outsider and two teams in between within every group.
But we all know football doesn't work quite as neatly as that, and you'll see from the following summaries that each group is laced with crunch games and potential banana skins that could determine who makes the last sixteen.
You can read full World Cup group summaries and team previews at Tipstrr
Assuming that Qatar do not punch above their weight in front of their own fans, Ecuador will be hoping to get all three points from the tournament's curtain-raiser.
The winner of the group's other opening game between Netherlands and Senegal will put themselves very much in the driving seat with Ecuador and Qatar still to play.
That would leave Senegal's encounter with Ecuador in the last round of games as a virtual qualifying decider to see who joins group favourites, Netherlands in the second round.
- Probable qualifiers Netherlands & Senegal
- Possible dark horses Ecuador
England start the qualifying stage as firm favourites to top the group, and will hope to avoid any banana skins in their relatively weak group, leaving Wales, USA and Iran to battle for the one remaining place in the second round.
Wales and USA open their accounts against each other in a potential early 6-pointer, and the winner of that game will hold a huge advantage if they can also overcome Iran.
Any drawn games in the opening two sets of matches will leave everything to play for on 29th November, with USA fancying their chances of beating Iran, while Wales would no doubt love to get one over on their noisy English neighbours in what promises to be a huge clash.
- Probable qualifiers England & USA
- Possible dark horses Wales (or Iran)
The three games involving Argentina, Mexico and Poland look likely to determine who progresses from Group C, although Argentina's 35-game unbeaten runs makes them favourites to top the group.
All three of those teams will expect to beat Saudi Arabia along the way, which gives extra weight to the Mexico v Poland encounter in the first set of fixtures.
Argentina, who kick off against the Saudis, will still have it all to do against those two in subsequent rounds, and will hope to have qualification in the bag before their last game against Poland, otherwise that could well decide which of the big three misses out.
- Probable qualifiers: Argentina & Mexico
- Possible dark horses: Poland
Current World Cup holders, France, will kick off all of their Group D games as favourites to win, although their middle fixture against Denmark will be a test after the Danes won their two Nations League clashes earlier this year.
It's hard to see the Danes slipping up against either of the other two contenders, but if they did happen to lose to the French, then their final encounter against Australia might well turn into a qualification decider.
Tunisia are notoriously a tough defensive nut to crack, but it's hard to imagine them finishing above either of the two European teams.
- Probable qualifiers: France & Denmark
- Possible dark horses: Australia
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It's difficult to see past the European juggernauts of Germany and Spain as occupants of the top two spots in Group E, although if there's a result in their much-awaited clash in the second set of group games, then that might open the door for the winner of Japan's game against Costa Rica.
That said, even if there is something to play for, it seems unlikely that Germany and Spain will slip up against their so-called lesser opponents in those final group games.
- Probable qualifiers Spain & Germany
- Possible dark horses Japan
Belgium and Croatia will both hope to have two wins apiece under the belts at the expense of Canada and Morocco before they meet in their own eye-catching clash in the final set of Group F fixtures on December 1st.
Croatia look potentially the most likely to slip up in either of their opening two games, especially against the unpredictable Moroccans, and if that is the case they will be under huge pressure to get a result against the much-fancied Belgians, while the two underdog teams will hope to have more than the Group F wooden spoon to play for when they battle it out at the same time.
- Probable qualifiers: Belgium & Croatia
- Possible dark horses: Canada
Any group containing Brazil promises some entertainment along the way, and assuming they show up and strut their stuff, then that leaves Switzerland and Serbia as probable contenders for the second qualifying spot from what looks to be a very competitive group.
Should they both have seen off the challenge of Cameroon and come second-best to the Brazilians, then the scene should be set for what will effectively be an all-European playoff when they meet in the final group game on December 2nd.
- Probable qualifiers: Brazil & Switzerland
- Possible dark horses: Serbia
The closest this Qatar World Cup has to an infamous 'group of death' would appear to be Group H, with Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana all high in the FIFA rankings on their respective continents.
All six games will be crucial, drawn games would appear likely, and all four teams could well have something to play for when the final round of group games kick off on December 2nd.
Portugal and Uruguay will be clear market favourites to progress, but this group looks more likely than any to see an upset or two.
- Probable qualifiers: Portugal & Uruguay
- Possible dark horses: Ghana
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