World Cup 2018: Group A preview
The World Cup kicks off in less than 11 days and we cannot wait!
Here, we preview the first of the eight groups in Russia.
Many people believe that the host country has the advantage of playing in front of their own support.
But perhaps that could add extra pressure to the Russian team?
Will Russia shock or impress the world?
It will be interesting to see if Russia crash out of the group like South Africa (2010). Or shock the world and perform well above their expectations like South Korea did at the 2002 World Cup.
Russia will be at their 11th World Cup, competing in 7 of the previous tournaments as the Soviet Union.
Uruguay are always an entertaining side to watch and have debatably the best front two in the world.
Edinson Cavani finished as top scorer with 10 goals in Uruguay’s qualification group, scoring more than Neymar and Coutinho combined (that’s over €400m of Brazilian talent by the way).
What will Egypt & Mohamed Salah do at the World Cup?
Egypt’s side contains the incredibly Mohamed Salah who signed for Liverpool from Roma in the summer.
The ex-Chelsea flop has enjoyed a fantastic Premier League season, and has finished it as Player of the Year in England’s top flight.
Not bad for a winger!
Of course, Salah comes into the tournament with a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final and may well not even appear in the first Egypt match against Uruguay.
Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny will keep the midfield tight and is likely to play an instrumental role against any team who wants to hit Egypt on the counter attack.
Saudi Arabia will undoubtably be the favourites to finish last in the group. However after a solid run in qualification, they can’t be ruled out.
Below is a team by team guide to World Cup 2018 Group A.
Russia are hosting the 2018 World Cup for the first time in the nation’s history.
Stanislav Chercheshov’s men will be hoping to impress not only their home fans but the billions of fans around the world who will be watching.
Russia qualified for the tournament as the host nation and will be playing at the final’s for the fourth time in their history since splitting from the Soviet Union in 1990.
Some may say that Russia under performed at the 2014 World Cup, where they exited in the group stage after losing to Belgium and failing to beat South Korea and Algeria.
The Russians were also poor at Euro 2016 and picked up just one point in the group stage, against England.
Igor Akinfeev has over 100 caps for his country and will be eager to make his country proud this summer.
Russia have never made it out of the group stage and will surely have great difficulty again this coming June.
Russia’s key men
Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit St Petersburg) & Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St Petersburg).
Dzagoev isn’t exactly the most prolific of players but is always a key figure for his country, particularly at international tournaments.
Former Arsenal target Aleksandr Kokorin is known to enjoy “the good life” but will be Russia’s starting striker this summer and will be desperate not to disappoint.
Zhirkov, a former Chelsea midfielder, is coming towards the end of his career and could bow out of the international game in front of his own fans in Russia 2018.
Saudi Arabia qualified for Russia after finishing second in their qualifying group, behind Japan.
Finishing as runners-up was no easy feat as Saudi Arabia pipped Australia to second spot through a marginally better goal difference (+2).
Saudi Arabia’s best result at a World Cup was in 1994 where they reached the last 16, only to be knocked out by Sweden.
Sami Al-Jaber is a Saudi Arabian legend as he is one of just eight players in football history to score in World Cup finals, 12 years apart.
Amongst those eight players include Pele, Maradona and Miroslav Klose.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia did not have a single player in their squad who played their club football outside of the country. Until, Fahad Al-Muwallad came on for Levante in La Liga in early May.
Saudi Arabia’s key men
Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Hilal), Fahad Al-Muwall (Al-Ittihdad) & Yahya Al-Shehri (Al Nassr)
Al-Abed scored 5 goals in qualification and was Saudi Arabia’s top scorer on the road to Russia.
Al-Muwall scored the goal that sent Saudi Arabia to the World Cup finals. He is seen as a national hero in his home country.
Al-Shehri has been in the Saudi Arabian team since 2009 and at 27 years old, has plenty more years to represent his country.
This is Egypt’s first time at the World Cup finals since Italia 90.
It is also The Pharaohs third appearance at the finals. Despite being one of Africa’s best teams, winning the African Cup of Nations on seven occasions.
Egypt have never actually won a match at the World Cup finals. Their players will be desperate to become part of Egyptian history this summer.
Egypt were drawn alongside England, Holland and The Republic of Ireland at Italia 90 and drew their opening two games before Mark Wright’s goal for England sent Egypt home.
The Egyptians qualified for Russia ahead of Uganda, Ghana and Congo, losing just a single match.
Egypt are led by the fantastic Mohamed Salah who has been unstoppable for Liverpool this season.
Can he continue his fine form in Russia? Especially now that he comes into the tournament with a shoulder injury…
Egypt’s key men
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) & Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City).
Salah scored 5 goals for Egypt during qualification and is one of the best players in the world at the moment.
Elneny may not feature often for Arsenal but the former Basel man plays a vital role for his country, he even scored in the 2017 AFCON final which Egypt lost to Cameroon.
Ramadan Sobhi signed for Stoke in the summer of 2016 after impressing for Al-Ahly, where he won 5 honours before tuning 19.
The two-time world champions return to the World Cup finals this year after finishing second, behind Brazil, in their South American qualification group.
Luis Suarez will return to the global stage after controversy in 2010 (handball vs Ghana) and 2014 (biting Giorgio Chellini).
Edinson Cavani enjoyed the season of his career with PSG alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Cavani easily finished the campaign as top goal scorer in Ligue 1 and his partnership with Suarez will be one of the best at the tournament.
Uruguay have a number of top quality players in their side along with their brilliant strike force.
Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur is definitely one to watch.
The 20 year old could announce himself to the world this summer and will be desperate to grasp onto the opportunity to represent his country.
Uruguay’s key men
Edinson Cavani (PSG), Luis Suarez (Barcelona) & Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid).
As mentioned Cavani has been unstoppable in recent months and throughout qualification.
Luis Suarez is re-finding his form after a rough spell with Barcelona. The world will be watching him closely for both his talent and potential controversy.
Diego Godin will help to tighten the defence and ensure that Uruguay qualify from Group A.
101 Great Goals predicts the Group A results!
Russia 2-0 Saudi Arabia
Egypt 1-2 Uruguay
Russia 1-3 Egypt
Uruguay 4-0 Saudi Arabia
Uruguay 2-1 Russia
Saudi Arabia 0-3 Egypt
The 101 Great Goals verdict on Group A
So there you have it, we think that Uruguay will top group A by winning all three games.
It will be a tough battle for second between Egypt and the hosts Russia. We believe that Mohamed Salah’s Egypt should have enough quality to claim second place.Ready for the World Cup? Get all the latest World Cup betting tips & predictions here.
All odds mentioned in this article are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change.