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World Cup Group A has a number of story-lines that make it compelling. To begin, it will kick things off as the Russians play host to the Saudi Arabians in a night 1 that will certainly set the tone for the Russian's participation on the world's biggest stage. Egypt and Uruguay take part in night two and make up what will be a very competitive group of combatants. Will there be any surprises with this one? We look at possibilities with our World Cup Group A preview below!
Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Edison Cavani (Paris Saint Germain, PSG) Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Diego Godin (Athletico Madrid), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Matias Vecino (Inter), Nathitan Nandez (Boca Juniors)
The Uruguayans enter group A as the favorites to win. With 12 World Cup appearances to their name, the South American club is looking for a third overall title. They haven’t secured the famous accolade of World Cup Champion since 1950.
Check out this SXSW Event planner. The Uruguayans arrive at the world cup after finishing second in qualifying to Brazil and play mainly out of the 4-4-2 system. Oscar Tabarez manages the squad that features no shortage of notable stars.
The worldwide story of Luis Suarez caused his owning club Liverpool to sell off to Barcelona for what seems a small fee in world football terms now. The rest is history as Suarez has seen his career flourish with Barcelona and Argentina international Lionel Messi.
Uruguay will also be placing their hopes in Edison Cavani who plays next to Neymar at PSG as well as popular keeper Fernando Muslera who has come to popularity over the last two world cups. Uruguay is not lacking in world renowned footballers anchoring the backline. Diego Godin and Sebastian Coates provide the South American squad with tall pillars at the back who have been known to score a goal or two.
Why Uruguay Could Win World Cup - Group A
Uruguay is hands down the most world recognized team in Group A. The Uruguayan squad plays its club football all over the world. La Liga, the Premier League, and many of the other prominent top football leagues feature Uruguayans SXSW 2019 on a weekly basis. It’s hard not to see a situation where Uruguay scores quite a few goals. Suarez and Cavani are both considered top 10 in the world at the striking discipline.
Uruguay doesn’t stop at attack as it provides a lot to be excited about at the back. Diego Godin is used to pocketing the likes of top world footballers like Lionel Messi. While Russia doesn’t provide a threat along these lines, Egypt presents a lot for the Uruguayans to deal with in Mohammad Salah who is now the favorite to win the golden boot in the premier league for his new club Liverpool.
Uruguay is the only team in this group with a FIFA world ranking inside the top 25. While they may not go far in the tournament overall, it’s hard to imagine them not getting a ticket into the group stage.
Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow), Fedor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Aleksandr Golovin(CSKA Moscow)
Russia qualifies as the hosts of the world cup in 2018. This is their 10th appearance and they will be hoping to use the good fortune of their home grounds to secure a bid in the knockout stages. At that point, anything can happen. The Russians just have to get there.
The Russians run a 3-5-2 system and obviously didn’t have to qualify given the fact that they will be hosting the games in their stadium. Stanislav Cherchesov is at the helm for the host country and has seen a good deal of success since taking over the management position after Russia’s disappointing 2016 European Final Performance.
Russia is anchored by world renowned goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev who with any luck will be able to keep the score lines low and manageable in the group. The success of the club lies in its young midfielders. Fydor Smolov and Aleksandr Kokorin scored plenty of goals in the 2017 campaign, but can the likes of Viktor Vasin and Fedor Kudryashov provide them with the service they need against top tier defensive units that will be managing their gameplan for points?
Why Russia Could Win World Cup - Group A
The Russians are the host nation. There’s no telling what type of advantage that could provide in a country rich in national heritage. It’s also important to note that the Russian sports community is largely trending down. With recent allegations over Olympic malpractices and movies like Icarus exposing the Russian sports brand, this is an important World Cup for the proud European nation.
Russian President Vladamir Putin will certainly be watching his squad. Will it be enough to raise the level of the Russian game through the latter stages of the knockout rounds?
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ramy Rabia (Al Ahly), Essam El-Hadary (Al-Taawoun)
Egypt is the reason everyone in this group should be looking over their shoulders. On a draw card, Egypt seems unconvincing and some would even say, “easy.” I think Mohamed Salah would like a word.
The Egyptian world cup squad is not afraid to defend. It’s the primary way that they’ve reached this stage in the world competition. Egypt won African Group E ahead of Uganda. If you haven’t seen video of the penalty and ensuing pandemonium that put them through, it’s worth watching here.
The unit is managed by Hector Cuper and prefers to run a 4-2-3-1 system on most nights. He is as defensive as they come and the Argentinian frontman is often criticized for his defensive tactics. We rarely see the Egyptians come out more aggressively, but this has lead to the recent successes of Egypt and a 63% overall win rate.
Egypt is rock solid at the back. Many will recognize Ahmed Hegazi from West Bromich Albion in the Premier League. His partner at the back, Ramy Rabia who plays in the Egyptian league, is equally as capable.
The feel good story that may propel Egypt to viral popularity is their goalkeeper. At 45 years young, Essam El-Hadary still captains Al-Taawoun in the Egyptian league and gives new hope to middle aging men across the world. You can still do it! (maybe, probably not)
Why Egypt Could Win World Cup - Group A
Egypt is great defensively and this will keep them in games and likely in this group until the last game of the tournament. If they are to advance, it will be because of Mohamad Salah. Salah is running away with the Golden Boot in the premier league which is the award given for top scorer. He recently notched 4 goals in an unstoppable performance against mid-table Watford. What can Salah do against what is largely mid-table world cup squads?
If Salah is as effective at burning world cup defenders as he is world cup defenders, Egypt could easily win this group. Salah is good enough to do it BY HIMSELF.
With Liverpool gearing up for a crucial quarterfinal matchup against the future 2018 Premier League Champions, one needs only ask Manchester City how they feel about the Egyptian to gauge his potential impact. He single handedly gave the club their only loss of the premier league season.
Fathad Al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad), Nawaf Al Abed (Al-Hilal)
This is the first World Cup for the Green Falcons since 2006. What an up and down ride it has been for the oil rich nation.
Saudi Arabia is more known in world football for their revolving door of managers than they are notable players. This makes Saudi Arabia a troubling pick to advance out of Group A. The odds certainly aren’t an accident. Not only does Saudi Arabia lack top tier talent, it also has no clear leader.
The Saudis have perhaps the hottest of hot seats when it comes to coaching sustainability. It seems that pretty much no one can keep a job there, regardless of performance.
Bert van Marwijk lead the team to the birth in the world cup. He was later fired for disagreeing with the Saudi FA.
Edgardo Bauza came in from Argentina but could only last two months before he was show the door.
Juan Antonio Pizzi now leads the squad. The question on everyone’s mind is will he last the world cup?
Why Saudi Arabia Could Win World Cup - Group A
It’s tough for me to see Saudi Arabia winning Group A. As with any upset minded squad, there is nothing to lose for the Saudis. You can make the argument that no team will be more free in playing than the Saudis. They’ve already lost two managers. What’s another?
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This group is intriguing, and it will be fun to see what Mo Salah does against the likes of Uruguay. I would not be shocked if Egypt takes the group in what would become the story of the World Cup. My heart is with Mo, but my Money is with Suarez and the Uruguayans. Uruguay +105 is the pick.
If you're feeling gambly, have a look at Russia "not to advance" for +250. I sure hope Putin doesn't read this blog...