The World Cup group stage in pictures

Ronaldo's hat-trick to Germany's agony, the World Cup group stage's highlights in pictures

The host got the World Cup under way in style as it put in a brilliant performance, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Moscow. Russia dominated throughout but it was the late drama that really lit up the spectacle when, with their side already 3-0 up, Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin scored stoppage-time goals to chalk up the second biggest victory by a host nation in an opening game. Photo: Getty
In Iran, women are banned from attending men's sporting events under the threat of being arrested, fined or imprisoned. They are allowed to attend games in Russia, though, and that meant Iran's match against Morocco was life-changing for many women as they got to watch their national team for the first time. Photo: Getty
When Spain and Portugal were drawn in the same group, people anticipated a showcase featuring some of the world's finest footballing talent. They were not disappointed. Spain twice came from behind through two Diego Costa goals before taking the lead with a stunning strike from Nacho. But Cristiano Ronaldo was the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick for Portugal that included a brilliant late free-kick to secure a 3-3 draw and a precious point for his team. Photo: Getty
The teams were level at 1-1 before the referee awarded Argentina a penalty. As Messi stepped up to the spot the outcome looked inevitable. Hannes Thor Halldorsson parried away the Argentina captain's strike to secure his side a point and prove once again that Iceland can go head-to-head with the big teams. Photo: Getty
Iran was losing 1-0 to Spain as the Group B clash headed into its final moments. But then substitute Milad Mohammadi decided to show off his party trick. When taking a throw-in, he opted to do a somersault with the ball before throwing it onto the field, but after landing the flip he suddenly had a change of heart and re-took it as a normal throw-in. Photo: Getty
With the world waiting for him to deliver, Lionel Messi hit a new low with Argentina at this World Cup. After its draw with Iceland, it was outplayed in every way by Croatia in a humiliating 3-0 defeat. After a closely fought first half, Croatia came alive after the break, with goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic silencing the hordes of Messi fans in the stands. Photo: Getty
It looked like Costa Rica were going to get a point against Brazil when they reached the 90th minute drawing 0-0 after a resilient display, but then the fourth official signalled there would be six additional minutes of play. Philippe Coutinho edged Brazil into the lead in the first minute of stoppage time, firing his shot through Keylor Navas' legs, and six minutes later Neymar added a second when the keeper got pulled out of position. The Paris Saint-Germain star turned the ball in from close-range before breaking down in tears at the end of a dramatic win for the tournament favourites. Photo: getty
Xherdan Shaqiri's late goal against Serbia kept Switzerland in contention to reach the knockout stages but his celebration - together with one from Granit Xhaka earlier in the game - landed him in hot water. Both the Kosovan-born Shaqiri and Xhaka - born to Albanian parents from Kosovo - marked their goals by crossing their hands to evoke the image of a double eagle that appears on the Albanian flag. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's independence and the gestures were widely interpreted as political statements. Shaqiri and Xhaka escaped suspensions but were fined by FIFA for "unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair play". Photo: Getty
A superbly struck free-kick from Toni Kroos in the dying moments of Germany's second group game against Sweden secured the world champion its first points of the tournament. Ola Toivonen put Sweden ahead in the first half before Marco Reus equalised early in the second. It looked like the game would be played out as a draw until Germany was awarded a free-kick just outside the box on the left wing in the fifth minute of stoppage-time. Kroos touched the ball onto Reus, who stopped it just inside the 18-yard box, and the Real Madrid star then curled the ball over the top of the Sweden defence and into the top corner, sparking riotous German celebrations. Photo: Getty
After a poor start to the World Cup, Germany looked to have bounced back in the second half of its 2-1 win over Sweden. But its title defence crumbled in a final group game against South Korea, which remained goalless until the 92nd minute when Kim Young-gwon opened the scoring courtesy of VAR overruling an offside flag, and Son Heung-min made it 2-0 four minutes later. It was the first time in 80 years that Die Mannschaft had fallen at the first hurdle in a World Cup and its elimination left the tournament - and the world - in shock. Photo: Getty