Russia the hosts, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the teams drawn in Group A of the 2018 Fifa World Cup and we take a look at the form, squads and outright betting markets concerning each nation.
Note, odds quoted are an average price, accurate at the time of writing but subject to change
Qualification: Qualified as host nation.
Form: Without needing to contest a qualifying group Russia’s form is hard to gauge. They did fluff their lines when hosting the Confederations Cup 12 months ago to some degree, starting with a win over New Zealand before losing to Portugal and Mexico to bow out early. Since then they have tested themselves against some top nations in friendly internationals. In November 2017 they lost 1-0 to Argentina and drew 3-3 with Spain and in March this year they lost 3-0 to Brazil and 3-1 to France.
In Euro 2016 Russia bowed out at the group stage, drawing with England before losing to Slovakia and Wales.
In World Cup 2014 Russia failed to make it beyond the group stage, playing out 1-1 draws with South Korea and Algeria either side of a 1-0 defeat to Belgium.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Club Brugge), Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg).
Defenders: Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov (both Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Akhmat Grozny), Sergei Ignashevich, Mario Fernandes (both CSKA Moscow), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg).
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinskiy (Krasnodar), Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev (both CSKA Moscow), Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev (all Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov (both Spartak Moscow), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal).
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Aleksey Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar).
To win the group 7/4
To qualify from the group 1/3
Qualification: Finished second in South American qualifying, 10 points behind Brazil and 3 better off than Argentina.
Form: Excellent home form underpinned Uruguay’s qualification campaign with 8 wins, 1 draw and just 1 defeat but they won just 2 of their qualifiers on foreign soil.
In Copa America 2016 Uruguay disappointed with 2 defeats and just the 1 win to bow out at the group stage, finishing third behind Mexico and Venezuela.
In World Cup 2014 they recovered from losing their first group match to Costa Rica (3-1) by beating England (2-1) and Italy (1-0) .
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Martin Campana (Independiente).
Defenders: Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Lazio), Guillermo Varela (Penarol).
Midfielders: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey).
Forwards: Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain), Luis Suarez (Barcelona).
To win the group 8/10
To qualify from the group 1 / 6
Qualification: Claimed top spot in their African qualification group finishing 4 points better off than Uganda, 6 in front of Ghana and 11 clear of Congo
Form: Egypt won 4, drew 1 and lost 1 of their group stage qualifiers scoring 8 goals and conceding 4 and home form was their strength with wins in all 3 matches on their own turf.
In Afcon 2017 Egypt kept 5 consecutive clean sheets on their way to the semi finals where they lost 2-1 to Cameroon.
This will be Egypt’s first appearance in the World Cup finals since 1990 when they failed to make it out of a group after drawing with the Netherlands and Ireland and a defeat to England.
Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly).
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf (all Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Al Fateh), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC).
Midfielders: Tarek Hamed, (Zamalek), Shikabala (Zamalek), Abdallah Said (Al Ahli), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos Athens).
Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).
To win the group 6/1
To qualify from the group 6/4
Qualification: Finished second in one of two Asia qualifying groups, 1 point behind Japan
Form: Saudi Arabia won 6 of their 10 matches in the qualifying group, scoring a total of 17 goals and conceding 10 and they were unbeaten at home with 4 wins and 1 draw whilst when travelling they lost 3 times including trips to Australia (3-2) and Japan (2-1)
Their most recent appearance in the World Cup finals came in 2006 when they drew their first match 2-2 against Tunisia before losing to Ukraine (4-0) and Spain (1-0).
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al Mayouf (Al Hilal).
Defenders: Mansoor Al Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al Breik (Al Hilal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al Bulaihi (Al Hilal).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al Faraj, Mohamed Kanno (both Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al Shehri (Al Nassr), Fahad Al Muwallad (Al Ittihad).
Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli).
To win the group 40/1
To qualify from the group 10/1
Group A Verdict:
On the face of it Uruguay look worthy favourites to top the group but closer inspection of their qualification form suggests they were over reliant on home form.
Host nation Russia could be anything with the jury out on whether home advantage will add to the pressure or help propel them to the knockout rounds. The opening game against Saudi Arabia will tell us plenty about their chances.
For many of us Saudi Arabia provide the “unknown quantity” ingredient but given they ran Japan close and finished on a par with Australia in qualifying they shouldn’t be dismissed as complete no hopers, especially given a question mark or two against the remainder of the group.
Much has been made of the “Salah factor” for Egypt but when qualifying and in AFCON 2017 it was their defence which stood out. I would expect them to adopt a conservative strategy once again and they could just be the value to top this group with or without their star man. I expect them to be hard to beat against Uruguay and Russia and playing Saudi Arabia last may well be in their favour if the Saudi’s fall out of contention.
Group A Pick, Egypt to qualify at around 6/4 or better
Pool name: Goodforthegame
Pool code: eirebibs
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