FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Russia as the hosting team has not played any qualifiers which sounds great, but there is a problem when you don’t have anyone to play against in preparation for the world cup. Russia had that problem, the issue of finding a team to play against went so far, they had to play against Dynamo Moscow. Luckily they found a solution, after top European and South American teams finished their qualifiers. Russia had a chance to play friendly matches against Argentina (0:1), Spain (3:3), Brazil (0:3), and France (1:3) to test their strength for the upcoming tournament. Looking back, Russia did not perform well in Euro 2016, as it was quite an unimpressive outing for them. With a new coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, they will be hoping to put up a better performance in the world cup, despite the absence of top quality players and departures of many “veterans”. With that in mind, Russia will come into the world cup with younger players, hoping the young talents shine and surprise everyone. Of course, it would be nice to see Russia achieving a nice result in their country, but to be fair I am a bit sceptical about how well will they play. Advancing from the group stage would be a good result, anything more is rather questionable.
Star player: Igor Akinfeev
Prediction: Home advantage could help them advance from the group stage, anything more is unlikely to happen.
Saudi Arabia has managed to get their spot in the World Cup tournament first time since 2006, which is a great success, to say the least. The fans of Saudi Arabia desperately wanted to see their team in the World Cup, after failing back in 2010 and 2014, and they did under Bert Van Marwijk. Looking at their qualifiers, Saudi Arabia finished 2nd in the group, 1 point behind Japan and with the same amount of points than Australia. Their record of 6-1-3 is decent, however, they should have performed better against Australia (3:2) and United Arab Emirates (2:1). In that regard, they were a bit lucky in the process of qualifying but the last day win over Japan (1:0) did the job. Sadly Van Marwijk left the team after qualifications ended, he was then replaced by Edgardo Bauza who surprisingly also left. Since then, the former Chile coach, Juan Antonio Pizzi took over the head coaching role and will lead Saudi Arabia in the WC.
Star player: Nawaf Al Abed
Prediction: Arguably the worst team in Group A, we do not see them advancing into the next round.
Egypt has been a strong team in Africa, but sadly they never managed to show their dominance on the world level. It’s been 28 years since we last saw Egypt in the World Cup, but then an era of bad luck started for them. Egypt failed time and time again to qualify, they went through many coaches, and none was able to give Egypt what they wanted. Until Hector Cuper came and got Egypt a ticket to this year’s world cup. The qualifiers for Egypt could easily end as they did for almost 3 decades. Egypt needed a win over Congo who was sitting at the bottom of the group E. The score was 1:1 and we were closing in on 90′, so it seemed as Egypt will not make it once more, but a miracle happened. A penalty in the 90’+5. One chance to break the bad spell and qualify for World Cup. Coming up to take the penalty was no other than Salah and he scored with confidence, singlehandedly giving Egypt and their fans what they have long been waiting for, despite playing a draw in their last match against Ghana (1:1).
Star player: Mohamad Salah
Prediction: Egypt boasts a solid defence and with Salah in front, they could be a threat for Russia for a spot in the round of 16. However, they will need a miracle to proceed further.
Uruguay has always been considered a good team and.. well they showed that in qualifications, despite a bad run they had, when they lost to Chile (3:1), Brazil (1:4), Peru (2:1) and Ireland (3:1) and Italy (3:0) both in friendly matches. Anyhow, Uruguay managed to finish the group at a respectable 2nd place with an overall record of 9-4-5, 10 points behind Brazil and with 3 points to spare ahead of Argentina. Needless to say, they boast a really strong attack and solid defence, however, their midfield has been a problem for a while. This could change this World Cup, as we will see new young talent in Uruguay midfield. If they can prove themselves and feed the ball to Suarez, Uruguay will end up with a good result.
Star player: Luis Suarez
Prediction: As mentioned before midfield will play a big role in deciding where Uruguay finishes. Although we can safely say Uruguay will advance out of the group stage.