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World Cup Group A 2018 Preview: Hosts handed lifeline with winnable group

  • We're looking ahead to this summer's World Cup with our Group A preview
  • Will Luis Suarez be able to fire Uruguay to top spot ahead of the hosts?
Aleksandr Golovin (right) of Russia takes the ball past Jonathan Dos Santos of Mexico

World Cup 2018 Group A Preview. Can hosts Russia live up to the hype in front of their own supporters, or will Luis Suarez's Uruguay dominate Group A?




Group A Fixtures 

Match 1
14 June 2018
4.00pm BST
Russia v Saudi Arabia
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Match 2 
15 June 2018
1.00pm BST
Egypt v Uruguay
Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg

Match 17
19 June 2018
7.00pm BST
Russia v Egypt
Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

Match 18 
20 June 2018
4.00pm BST
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia
Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

Match 33
25 June 2018
3.00pm BST
Uruguay v Russia
Cosmos Arena, Samara

Match 34
25 June 2018
3.00pm BST
Saudi Arabia v Egypt
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Russia 

With the eyes of the world watching on, hosts Russia will be hoping to put on a good show this summer on the pitch at least. Whilst the tournament has caused problems and controversy off the field, the host nation will at least be hoping to put in some good performances this summer and it has to be said that they've been handed a group that appears to be winnable on paper - so can they harness the home advantage to progress to the knock-out stages as the aim will be this summer?

Teams such as Sweden and South Korea have progressed beyond expectations in the past on home soil and this Russian side will be hoping to take some inspiration from that heading into this summer's tournament. Boss Stanislav Cherchesov will be hoping to create a strong team spirit and get the best out of a group of players that know each other very well with the vast majority playing their domestic football in Russia. They could be a little rusty though having not played a competitive match in two years since their group stage exit from the 2016 European Championships in France.

Key man: Aleksandr Golovin. At just 21 years of age, Aleksandr Golovin may not be the most experienced member of this Russian national team. He is however, among the most talented, with his impressive all-action displays in the centre of the CSKA Moscow midfield catching the attention of scouts from some of Europe's biggest clubs over the last few months. Can he showcase his considerable talent and carry the weight of an expectant host nation on his shoulders?

Egypt

Egypt fans will have celebrated their team's qualification to this tournament as much as any other this summer as they've been waiting a long time to see their side at the World Cup once again. Despite always being among the frontrunners for the African Cup of Nations and even winning the competition on no fewer than seven occasions, The Pharaohs have struggled when it comes to the World Cup and have managed to qualify on only two occasions before now, the most recent being in 1990 when they crashed out in the group stages.

This time around though they faced few problems, with Ghana failing to live up to expectations in Group E and Héctor Cúper's men were able to secure their place in the tournament with a qualifying fixture left to spare. In Mohamed Salah they do have a star man but they also strike a nice balance between experience, including former ACON winners and promising youngsters. The Argentinian coach favours a defensive approach but in Salah, they do have a real creative talent at the focal point of their attack.

Key man: Mohamed Salah. After signing for Liverpool in the summer, forward Salah has been in scintillating form, proving the Premier League doubters wrong following his unsuccessful stint as a Chelsea player. With pace to burn and a host of tricks up his sleeve, the ex-Roma man has all the necessary tools to cause problems for any defence at the World Cup this summer and after being the star man in his side's qualifying campaign, he'll be out to shine again on the biggest stage this summer.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia have been regulars to the World Cup finals in more recent history although they're yet to really compete once reaching the finals and indeed they have been on the end of some embarrassing defeats, not least the 8-0 defeat to eventual finalists Germany in the 2002 World Cup. From 1994 to 2006, the Green Falcons qualified for four consecutive tournaments, even making it to the Round of 16 in the USA, but they now make their return to the finals after failing to qualify for South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

The Asian qualifying section is rather drawn out, but Juan Antonio Pizzi's men more than earned their spot by finishing above Australia in the group stage third round. Although well supported, their side lacks any real stars and it's tough to see how they manage to make it out of this group and they're heavy favourites to finish bottom. Can they at least spring a surprise in the opening game when they take on the hosts in Moscow? With the eyes of the world watching on, they could create a moment of real World Cup history if so.

Key man: Osama Hawsawi. Few men in the whole competition possess the kind of international experience that the Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi possesses. The Al-Hilal man has been near enough an ever-present for his country ever since making his debut way back in 2007, amassing an impressive 134 caps along the way. He is the calming influence in this squad and with his side likely to be on the back-foot most of the time, his presence in the heart of defence will be key for the Green Falcons.

Uruguay

Uruguay may not have been at their very best in the CONMEBOL qualifying section, but they still managed to qualify ahead of Copa America holders Chile and finish above Argentina in the group stages, who needed a hat-trick from Lionel Messi to carry them to a win in their final match against Ecuador to earn their spot on the plane to Russia. A quick glance at their squad shows just how much talent that Oscar Tabarez possesses at his disposal too including Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Godin, all huge names in European football.

They're a nation with real history in this tournament too, having been the first ever hosts and the first ever winners way back in 1930. Although not the superpower they once were, Los Charruas still strike fear into the hearts of many international teams and if they can get Cavani and Suarez firing at their absolute best, they are likely to be too hot to handle for the three teams in Group A and if they can amass nine points as you might expect, then it could give them the confidence to go deeper into the tournament than is perhaps expected at this stage.

Key man: Luis Suarez. We may not have seen the best of Luis Suarez just yet this season, but the Barcelona man has the capability to be one of the most dangerous players in world football when he hits his stride. His last World Cup ended on a real negative note as he was handed a lengthy FIFA ban for a bite on Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, but he will be desperate to make the headlines for the right reasons this time around and harness than undeniable will to win in an altogether more efficient manner.

Group A betting tip

Although they were a little shaky in qualifying at times (they even started 2017 with four consecutive defeats including a friendly loss at the hands of the Republic of Ireland), we're expecting this Uruguay team to make the most of the luck that's come their way in being handed this group. Whilst Russia won't lie down on home soil and Egypt can cause a threat through Mohamed Salah, Los Charruas are expected to win out in all three of their group stage games - but in reality they shouldn't need to in order to top the group.

The balance in this Uruguay squad is strong and although Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Maxi Perreira offer a very experienced, solid defensive base, their real stars are PSG forward Edinson Cavani and his strike-partner, Barcelona's Luis Suarez. They should have enough quality and ingenuity to breakdown a deep Egpyt defence in the first game which will then give them confidence to rack up the goals against Russia and Saudi Arabia in order to secure top spot in the group with relative ease.

Uruguay to win Group A at 11/10 with betway

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World Cup Group A 2018 Preview: Hosts handed lifeline with winnable group

World Cup 2018 Group A Preview. Can hosts Russia live up to the hype in front of their own supporters, or will Luis Suarez's Uruguay dominate Group A?

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