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World Cup 2018: Group A Preview

Russia 50/1 – Several bookies

Captain: Igor Akinfeev

Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov

Nickname: Sbornaya

FIFA Rank: 66

This year’s hosts could escape Group A but they’ll need a lot of luck. The Russian nation may feel optimistic about their chances of success but they are ranked by FIFA at number 66 for a reason. Other than goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev there aren’t too many stand out players that catch the eye. Head Coach Stanislav Cherchesov will be concerned about Russia’s defensive frailties. Neither Viktor Vasin or Georgi Dzhikiya will feature in Russia’s back five, both are out with long-term injuries. Can Russia cope without veteran midfielder Igor Denisov? Sevilla’s Denis Cheryshev will provide the creativity required for the front men. Cheryshev has played his entire career in La Liga.

Russia’s form coming into the World Cup is poor, they’ve won just a handful of games since 2016, including a win against Dinamo Moscow. If you’ve drawn Russia in a sweepstake you’ve every right to feel somewhat pessimistic. It’s plausible to suggest that there will be very little interest from Russian nationals beyond the group stages.

Egypt 200/1 – Several bookies

Captain: Essam El Hadary
Manager: Hector Cuper
Nickname: The Pharaohs

FIFA Rank: 46

This is the first World Cup appearance for Egypt since Italia 90. Much of Egypt’s success will depend on whether or not Hector Cuper’s side can get the best out of Liverpool’s Mo Salah. Cuper has a tendency to set his side up conservatively but don’t be surprised to see Salah bagging a brace against either Russia or Saudi Arabia. Since his move to Liverpool, Salah has become a Kop hero, scoring 32 Premier League goals in 36 starts. The Liverpool number 11 will lead the line in this season’s Champions League final against Real Madrid. Arsenal fans will be familiar with Mohamed Elneny. The defensive midfielder has been included in Cuper’s squad but the Arsenal man is struggling to shake off an ankle injury.

Egypt is likely to be captained by veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary. The 45-year-old is set to make his World Cup debut and become the oldest player to make an appearance at the tournament. Egypt should be too strong for Saudi Arabia, and if they can earn a point against the hosts, they have every chance of making the Round-of-16.

Saudi Arabia 2001/ – Bet Victor

Captain: Osama Hawsawi

Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi

Nickname: The Green Falcons

FIFA Rank: 70

Ranked at number 70, Saudi Arabia will once again make up the numbers at a World Cup tournament. There’s little to expect from a team made up primarily of players from their own league other than a goal fest for the opposition. During the 2002 World Cup, they conceded 12 goals in Group E, including an 8-0 thumping at the hands of Germany. The Saudi’s qualified for this Summer’s World Cup behind Japan.

During his playing career, Head Coach, Juan Antonio Pizzi made over 40 appearances for Barcelona. Pizzi has only had six months to prepare for this competition. Six days, six months, does it matter? Saudi Arabia’s lack of quality and experience will arguably see them finishing with at the bottom of their group with no points and no goals to cheer.

Uruguay 35/1 188Bet

Captain: Diego Godin

Manager: Oscar Tabarez

Nickname: La Celeste

FIFA Rank: 17

Head Coach Oscar Tabarez has got a talented squad of players at his disposal. Topping Group A should be Tabarez’s first target. A blend of South American and European based players includes Atletico Madrid’s defensive pair of Diego Godin and Jose Maria. Tabarez’s first names on his team sheet will be PSG’s Edison Cavani and Barcelona’s brilliant Luis Suarez. Cavani finished as the top scorer in France’s Ligue 1 with 28 goals. As for Suarez, what else do we need to know? 25 goals and 11 assists in La Liga has helped Barca to another league title. Cristhian Stuani had a fruitful season for Girona, scoring 19 goals and helping his side to a respectable mid-table finish.

Back in March, the two-time World Cup winners beat the Czech Republic and Wales 2-0 and 1-0 respectively. Uruguay’s work ethic has been questioned but a good start in Group A could really fire up a nation that is more than capable of reaching the last four. The likes of Godin, Jose Maria and Suarez certainly know that ‘winning feeling’. If you’re betting on single games bet against La Celeste with caution, especially in the latter stages of the competition.

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*odds correct at the time of writing

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