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The World Cup is upon us! After a few long years of waiting, the best tournament in soccer is here, and Group A is looking to be one of the most wide open groups in recent history. Starting with the favorites, ending with the dark horses, here is the Pro Sports Fandom 2018 World Cup Group A Primer!
Uruguay is easily the favorite out of this group, for more reasons than one. Uruguay’s a two time World Cup Champion, albeit in 1930 and 1950, showing off the best pedigree in the group. With a fourth place finish in 2010 and a Round of 16 finish in 2014, Uruguay’s likely going to make it out of the group stage fairly easily. Can they make noise?
Well, maybe? Chances are Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s ability to attack, attack, attack will help a generally young team around them. Of the midfielders on the Uruguay side, just one of them has more than 36 caps, with multiple members of the team still in single digits in terms of international games. With Suarez, Cavani, and Diego Godin all leading the way with a good bit of talent, maybe there’s a chance that Uruguay makes a run. At the very least, they should waltz through the competition within Group A.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): -110
Russia’s a very interesting team. Russia didn’t have to go through qualifying to qualify as the host nation, and if they did, maybe things would be a bit different. Alas, as the home nation in a group that’s not convincingly strong, we could see them certainly pound out a few victories. Will they go deep in the tournament? Let’s find out.
Chances are this Russia World Cup team will be short lived, but they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting out of the group stage, lead by Fyodor Smolov, Artem Dzyuba, Yuri Zhirkov, all of whom play in Russia. Igor Akinfeev is Russia’s long time goaltender, with 106 caps, along with Sergei Ignashevich likely giving it one more go at age 38 after 122 caps. Russia’s got the strongest all-around roster in terms of veteran leadership in the group outside of Uruguay, and with home country, they should likely make it past the group stage.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +160
Egypt is a dark horse in the group, for more reasons than one. First things first, superstar Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) is coming off an upper body injury sustained in the Champions League final. That doesn’t bode well, as if Salah can’t play, chances are Egypt’s going to struggle to score. Salah has 57 caps internationally, with 33 goals to his name. Combine the rest of Egypt’s goals internationally… 32. So, Salah’s extremely important to the roster as the main playmaker and scorer.
Other players you may recognize? Ahmed Hegazi from West Brom and Mohamed Elneny from Arsenal will likely have large roles in Egypt’s World Cup run, as well as 45 year old goaltender Essam El Hadary who’s slotted in to be the goaltender for one more run. Egypt hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1990 and have yet to win a game in World Cup history, but there may be hope for them yet to pull out a win or two and MAYBE sneak through past the Group Stage.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +500
The Saudi Arabian side for the World Cup is not exactly an exciting one, lead by Levante’s Fahad Al-Muwallad of Levante and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi of Al-Nassr. Both of these players are good, hard-working players even compared to other, much more dominant countries, so we could see a bit of firepower out of this Saudi Arabia side who’s got the worst odds to win their group of anyone in this tournament.
Simply put, there’ll have to be a lot going right for Saudi Arabia to make it past the group stage. They’ve won two games in their World Cup history, both in 1994, and since have been dominated, being outscored 26-4 over 9 games since 1998. Could this year be different for Saudi Arabia? Likely not, but if you’re looking to put a bet on a dark horse to potentially sneak out of their group, throwing down a few dollars may not be the worst idea you’ve had.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +4000
Group A Players To Watch
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, playing with Egypt)
- Luis Suarez (Barcelona, playing with Uruguay)
- Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain, playing with Uruguay)
- Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr, playing with Saudi Arabia)
- Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow, playing with Russia)
Group A Fixture Schedule (EST Time Zone)
- Russia v Saudi Arabia, THU 6/14 @ 11 AM
- Egypt v Uruguay, FRI 6/15 @ 8 AM
- Russia v Egypt, TUE 6/19 @ 2 PM
- Uruguay v Saudi Arabia, WED 6/20 @ 11 AM
- Saudi Arabia v Egypt, MON 6/25 @ 10 AM
- Uruguay v Russia, Mon 6/25 @ 10 AM
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