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2018 World Cup: Group A preview

Russia overview

As the host nation, Russia come into the 2018 World Cup without much hope. Despite being seen as the successor to the much more successful USSR national team from back in the day, the production line in Russia has become dry.

Despite being a passionate and storied football nation, there’s little to shout about with regards to talent in the national side. With little pressure on the home side due to a blunt attack and a defence that’s rag-tag to say the least, expectations are low.


There’s little in the way of strengths for Russia. Sadly, their best player in the eyes of many – Igor Akinfeev – has a long history of big-game blunders. This means that despite years of experience, the 32-year-old comes into the tournament with some major doubts over his quality at the very top level.


The defence is made up of mostly untried individuals and/or veterans long past their peak. They are quite a physical team that lacks any kind of real tactical solidity, and they don’t press particularly well as a unit. It would be hard to call any real quality or particular weakness – that’s part of the problem with the host nation.

Star Man/Player to Watch

Former Real Madrid man Denis Cheryshev is likely to be one of the few bright sparks. He’s had a decent career in La Liga, and is one of the few creative talents.


Saudi Arabia overview

A trip to the 2018 FIFA World Cup beckons for Saudi Arabia. As one of the few participants from their continent to have prior World Cup experience, they arrive here for their fifth experience of the tournament. This is their first since 2006, though, and actually might have the slimmest chance of escaping the group.


In forward Mohamed Al-Sahlawi, they have someone to play off and a player who can relied upon to put the ball in the net. The Saudis can be relied upon to stay strong and dogged, and they will look to use the power and finishing ability of Al-Sahlawi to get some points in what is a fiercely tight group.


Sadly, they are pretty weak at the back. Relatively solid and with no real issues in terms of discipline or effort, they’ll provide a stern test for Russia and Egypt. Being pitted against Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, though, is likely to put their confidence at risk if the game goes as is expected.

Star Man/Player to Watch

Outside of the Al-Nassr forward mentioned above, Saudi Arabia can call upon a decent wide man in Fahad Al-Muwallad. He’s an impressive little winger with good feet and an eye for goal. While he’s spent much of the second half of the season on loan in Spain with Levante without playing much, he may impress

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Egypt overview

Listen to the experts, and you would be led to believe that three-time World Cup qualifiers Egypt are a minnow. With a host of continental conquests in the past, though, Egypt are a nation with a reputed footballing history.

While many of the stars of the past are now retired, they are rejuvenated with the explosion of Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah. Should he struggle to make the tournament’ early games, The Pharaohs could be out before their star man kicks a ball.


Raw determination. Few teams have enjoyed such success at their own continental level without a World Cup in the process. Last seen in 1990, Egypt are finally back. That desire – alongside a squad of good, talented and tactically astute players – should play into their hands.

With such a solid team outside of Salah, they also have the chance to shock a group containing a poor Russia and a Saudi Arabia side they should feel at least a match for.


Brittle belief. If Salah is out for the first game and misses the second, they could struggle to adapt to a new formation before the tournament gets gong. 

Star Man/Player to Watch

Salah is the obvious one, so we recommend that you look at Basel utility man Omar Gaber. At 26, he could show his pace in Russia and really make a breakthrough at club level next season.


Uruguay overview

As two-time winners of the World Cup, Uruguay are one of the most storied sides in football history. They arrive at this tournament with a seemingly easy pass through to the Knockout rounds. Can they impress in Russia?


For one, they have one of the best attacks in the world game. Both strikers are among the most feared on the planet, and could go some way to making sure that Uruguay make their way beyond the first knockout round.

They are a solid and tactically compact side with plenty of skill in the areas where it matters most. Stopping them won’t be as easy as many think.


Temperament. While the likes of Suarez alongside Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez are among the best players in their position on the planet, they have combustible histories. Many of Uruguay’s top players have this kind of experience of short fuses. If they struggle to break down seemingly inferior opponents in the group, they could explode.

Star Man/Player to Watch

Lucas Torreira. The little genius has enjoyed a spectacular season in Serie A with Sampdoria. He looks set for a major move in the summer, and should be a fantastic buy for just about any of the clubs linked with. His price will surely soar after starring in Russia.

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