The World Cup is set to kick-off on June 14, with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia. The other two group members, Egypt and Uruguay will square off the following day. Here is a quick break down of the four teams in group A.
World Cup Ranking: 46
The last time Egypt went to the World Cup was in 1990. Egypt were put in a group with England, Republic of Ireland and Netherlands. They have a much easier group this time and should be considered one of the favourites to make it out of Group A.
Despite qualifying for the World Cup, Hector Cúper has been criticized for his defensive approach. Egypt like to sit back and attack on the counter, which can be a good thing for them with the likes of Mohamed Salah on the team. It might be the best way for Salah to find himself isolated in one-on-one situations against defenders, which is what the opposition don’t want. Egypt have only conceded more than one goal in two of their last 32 matches. Their defensive approach and their mix of young and old players could be the key to their success in the World Cup and they could be the dark horse of this tournament. One thing to note: Goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary is set to become the oldest player at a World Cup at 45.
Player to Watch
It’s no surprise that the player to watch on this Egyptian team is Mohamed Salah, who is easily the best signing of the 2017/2018 season. Salah has gone on to score 43 goals for Liverpool in all competitions and has led them to the Champions League final. Salah has been a revelation for both club and country. He has shown that when the pressure is on, he doesn’t shy away from taking responsibility. this was evident when he stepped up and scored the winning goal from the spot to send Egypt to the World Cup
Predicted Finish: Second Place
World Cup Ranking: 66
There will be a lot of eyes on Russia during this world cup. Not only on the pitch, but off the pitch as well, but that’s a story for another day.
Russia, coming off a disappointing Euro 2016, will be hoping to impress their fans on the worlds biggest stage. Former Russian national team goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchesov has taken over as the manager of the national team and has already put a large emphasis on the defensive aspect of the game. Cherchesov is putting a lot of his trust on his young players to help Russia find success this summer. Youngsters in Viktor Vasin (CSKA), Fedor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan) and Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow) are all expected to feature for Russia in defence. Going forward, Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow) is still going strong and the strikers Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar) and Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit Saint Petersburg) continue to score domestically. Smolov has 14 goals in 23 apperances, Kokorin has 19 goals in 35, and Dzagoev has directly contributed in 14 goals through 31 apperances.
Players to Watch
A similar trend continues in midfield where Russia are expected to go with three young technical midfielders. The twins Aleksei and Anton Miranchuk from Lokomotiv Moscow and Aleksandr Golovin from CSKA Moscow. The trio are expected to be the future of the Russian midfield and they could have their big career breaks this summer. We all know young Russian players love a international compeition to announce themseleves to the world. In the past, Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Dzagov have all starred in major international competitions. Can this current generation follow the same path as them?
Predicted Finish: Third Place
World Cup Ranking: 70
The Green Falcons enter the world cup as the lowest ranked team in the tournament. The biggest issue for this nation is the fact that managers come and go like there is no tomorrow. Bert Van Marwijk led Saudi Arabia to the world cup for the first time since 2006 and lasted a surprising two years as the national team manager. But after a disagreement with the Saudi FA, he left his post. Van Marwijk was replaced by Argentinian Edgardo Bauza, who only lasted two months before getting sacked. The Saudi FA then appointed former Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, who failed to take Chile to the world cup despite winning the 2016 Copa America.
Player to Watch: For me, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi is the player to watch on this Saudi Arabia team. There is a lot of emphasis put on the like of Nawaf Al Abed of Al-Hilal and Fahad Al-Muwallad of Al-Ittihad, but for me Al-Sahlawi of Al-Nassr is the player who is capable of leading the Green Falcons to victory in the group stages. The 31-year-old striker has a lot of experience playing for his country having played with Saudi Arabia since the U-20 level. He has scored 28 goals in 36 appearances for his country and 102 goals in 174 apperances for his club side Al-Nassar. Recently, Al-Sahlawi was invited to train with Manchester United.
Predicted Finish: Fourth Place
World Cup Ranking: 17
This time Uruguay didn’t have to qualify for the world cup via the playoff round They finished second in CONEMBOL Qualifying behind Brazil. Uruguay are notorious for their attacking style of football, which is expected to continue considering the group they are in.
Uruguay have always been a threat in recent world cups and they always create a major talking point these days thanks to Luis Suarez. Suarez famiously turned into goalkeeper to prevent Ghana from scoring a last minute winner and was sent off. They went on to win the shootout and advanced to the Semi-Finals in South Africa in 2010. In the 2014 world cup in Brazil, Suarez famously bit Georgio Chellini in the group stages and was dealth a a nine-match international ban, a four month from all soccer competitions and a fine of just under 100,000 US Dollars.
Players to Watch
It’s no surprise that Edinson Cavani and Suarez are the two players to keep an eye on for this team. Both players are notorious for their goalscoring abilities. Cavani has scored 116 goals in 165 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain since signing in 2013 and has netted 42 times in 100 appearances for his national side. Suarez has scored 109 goals in 127 appearances for Barcelona since signing in 2014. He also has 50 goals in 97 apperances for his national side.
Predictied Finish: First Place