2018 FIFA World Cup – Group A Preview & Betting Tips

The following is a team-by-team preview of Group A in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Futures betting tips are also provided. The group contains hosts Russia, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Wallchart, which supports all time zones.

FIFA World Cup odds can be compared in the odds comparison section.

View bookmaker FIFA World Cup promotions (not available to NSW)

Other group previews:

 

Russia

Russia

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 70
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 44
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
    • Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge), Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg)
    • Defenders: Vladimir Granat, Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg), Mario Fernandes, Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow)
    • Midfielders: Yury Gazinsky (Krasnodar), Alan Dzagoev, Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Erokhin, Yury Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Zobnin, Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal)
    • Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar)
  • Best World Cup performance: Fourth place (1966)
  • 2014 World Cup: 3rd in the group stage
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Automatically qualified as the host nation
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 3.00
    • Reach knockouts: 1.36
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 3.00
    • Win World Cup: 41.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 3rd in the group
    • SBNATION: 3rd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 11.5%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 56%
  • Good News:
    • Only one host nation (South Africa in 2010) has ever failed to reach the knockout stage.
    • Find themselves in on paper the easiest pool in the tournament, with only one side ranked inside the top 40.
    • Egypt’s star player Mohamed Salah might not be fit in time for Russia’s fixture against them.
  • Bad News:
    • The lowest ranked team in the tournament based on the official FIFA World rankings.
    • Lack of quality in the squad so will be heavily reliant on a few key players.
    • Finished at the bottom of their group in Euro 2016.
    • Failed to progress past the group stage as the hosts of the 2017 Confederations Cup.
    • Went 0-1-3 in 2018 friendlies.
    • Look weak in defence, which hasn’t been helped by long-term injuries to centre-backs Georgi Dzhikiya, Viktor Vasin and Ruslan Kambolov which has forced Russia to convince Sergei Ignashevich, who turns 39 in July, so come out of international retirement.

 
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 67
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 63
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi (Spain)
    • Goalkeepers: Yasser al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli), Abdullah al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal), Mohammed al-Owais (Al-Ahli)
    • Defenders: Mansour al-Harbi (Al-Ahli), Yasser al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Osama Hawsawi (Al-Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr), Motaz Hawsawi (Al-Ahli), Ali al-Bulayhi (Al-Hilal), Mohammed al-Burayk (Al-Hilal)
    • Midfielders: Abdulla Otayf (Al-Hilal), Salman al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Mohammed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Abdullah al-Khaibari (Al-Shabab), Hussein al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli), Abdulmalik al-Khaibari (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Taisir al-Jassim (Al-Ahli), Yahya al-Shehri (Al-Nassr), Fahad al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad)
    • Forwards: Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli), Mohammed al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr)
  • Best World Cup performance: Round of 16 (1994)
  • 2014 World Cup: Absent
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Runners up in Group B with a 6-1-3 record in the AFC Third Round.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 41.00
    • Reach knockouts: 9.00
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.083
    • Win World Cup: 1001.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 4th in the group
    • SBNATION: 4th in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 1.2%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 12.8%
  • Good News:
    • Striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi was prolific in qualifying, scoring 16 goals in total.
    • There’s good cohesion in the squad with the bulk of the players drawn from the Saudi Premier League sides Al Hilal and Al Ahli.
  • Bad News:
    • The lowest ranked team in the tournament based on Elo Ratings.
    • Have parted ways with two coaches in the lead up to the tournament.
    • Finished last in their group in their previous World Cup appearance in 2006.
    • Sent a number of players on loan to clubs in Spain for experience, which didn’t work out, with only a couple receiving any minutes.
    • Failed to reach the knockout stage of the 2017 Arabian Gulf Cup where they finished 3rd in their group behind Oman and the UAE.

 
Egypt

Egypt

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 45
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 50
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Héctor Cúper (Argentina)
    • Goalkeepers: Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El Shennawy (Al Ahly)
    • Defenders: Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Saad Samir (Al Ahly)
    • Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly Jeddah), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad Jeddah), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Shikabala (Al Raed), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos)
    • Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
  • Best World Cup performance: First round (1934), Group stage (1990)
  • 2014 World Cup: Absent
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Won Group E with a 4-1-1 record in the CAF Third Round.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 6.50
    • Reach knockouts: 2.50
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.53
    • Win World Cup: 201.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • SBNATION: 2nd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 5.6%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 35.2%
  • Good News:
    • Runners up in the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
    • Mohamed Salah has been in prolific form for club and country.
  • Bad News:
    • Have only brought two strikers to the tournament and one is star player Mohamed Salah, who might miss the opening two games due to injury.
    • The side is winless in six matches since November of last year and they were brushed aside 3-0 by Belgium in a pre-tournament friendly.
    • Have no World Cup experience in the squad as it was in 1990 that Egypt last played in a World Cup.
    • Goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shenawy will miss the tournament with a knee injury.
    • Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny’s participation is in doubt after he missed the end of the season with an ankle injury.

 
Uruguay

Uruguay

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 14
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 12
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Óscar Tabárez
    • Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Martin Campana (Independiente)
    • Defenders: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (FC Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Lazio), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)
    • Midfielders: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria)
    • Forwards: Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Edinson Cavani (PSG), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
  • Best World Cup performance: Winners (1930, 1950)
  • 2014 World Cup: 2nd in the group stage, knocked out in the Round of 16
  • 2010 World Cup: 1st in the group stage, knocked out in the semi-finals
  • Qualifying: Second place in the CONMEBOL qualifiers with a 9-4-5 record.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 1.72
    • Reach knockouts: 1.16
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 5.00
    • Win World Cup: 29.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • SBNATION: 1st in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 81.7%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 96%
  • Good News:
    • Find themselves in the easiest group, with no other team ranked higher than 45th in the World, or better than 50 based on Elo ratings.
    • Boast the menacing attacking duo of Barcelona striker Luis Suarez (51 goals in 98 games) and PSG striker Edinson Cavani (42 goals in 100 games).
    • Uruguay are unbeaten in seven games dating back to September 2017 and they have kept clean sheets in each of their last three games.
    • Head coach Óscar Tabárez has been coaching since 1980 and has been at the helm of Uruguay since 2006, overseeing 150+ games during his tenure. He is incredibly well liked and respected by the squad.
    • Uruguay finished second in the CONMEBOL qualifiers despite having strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani out injured at the start.
  • Bad News:
    • Will likely have to play either Spain or Portugal in the Round of 16 and won’t have a chance to severely test themselves ahead of that clash.

 

Betting tips:

Uruguay boast by far the strongest squad in the group and they bring good form into this tournament.

Back Uruguay to win Group A at 1.75 (CrownBet)

Uruguay also offer good value in the tournament winner market. If they make the knockout stage they will likely face Portugal’s ageing squad in the Round of 16. From the quarter-finals anything can happen and if you back them with Betfair you will have various hedging opportunities if you want to lock in a profit.

Back Uruguay to win the World Cup at 32.00 (Betfair)

 

Notes

 

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