World Cup Preview – Group A
FIFA Ranking: 46th
Qualification: Egypt qualified 1st in their Group in the CAF qualifiers to secure their spot in Russia 2018. They relied heavily on an organised defence and the attacking prowess of Mohamed Salah who scored 42% of their goals.
History: This will be Egypt’s first appearance at the World Cup finals since Italia ‘90 when they failed to qualify from the group stages.
Head Coach: The former Valencia and Inter Milan coach Héctor Cúper has been in charge of the Pharaohs since March 2015 and has had a lot of success since being appointed. In the 32 games, he’s taken charge of we’ve seen Egypt go W19 D5 L8 and were runners-up in last years African Cup of Nations.
Players to watch: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke)
Stage of elimination: Egypt have all the ingredients to make it into the Round of 16 but will need a bit of luck along the way if they’re to finish ahead of Uruguay and the hosts Russia.
FIFA Ranking: 66th
Qualification: Russia are the host nation so qualification was automatic. The last competitive action we have seen from the Russians was in the Confederations Cup last summer and the Euro 2016 finals in France. Russia looked poor in both competitions and will need some drastically improved performances if they’re to have a deep run this summer.
History: This is Russia’s 4th appearance at the World Cup finals. They have failed to qualify from the group stages on each occasion
Head Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov has failed to win 13 of the 18 games he’s taken charge of so far and has no experience as a coach at a major International tournament.
Players to watch: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow) Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow) Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar)
Stage of Elimination: Only once has a host nation failed to qualify from the Group stages so it would be a shock if they didn’t at least make it to the Round of 16. Should they qualify they’d likely face Spain or Portugal so progressing further than that would be a huge ask for the hosts.
FIFA Ranking: 70th
Qualification: Saudi Arabia had an impressive qualification campaign finishing second to Japan in Group B of the AFC qualifiers. The Saudi’s relied on impressive home form to get them over the finishing line in qualification. Away from the kingdom they did struggle so it will be interesting to see how they do in Russia this summer.
History: Saudi Arabia had their best ever run in the World Cup at USA ‘94 when they qualified for the Round of 16. Since then it’s all been downhill has they failed to win a single game at France ‘98, Japan/Korea ‘02 and Germany ‘06
Head Coach: Saudi Arabia did look good in qualification but we must remember that this was under their former coach Bert van Marwijk. Their head coach heading into this tournament will be the former Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Players to watch: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (AL- Nassr) Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante) Salem Al-Sawsari
Stage of Elimination: We won’t hold back, we see Saudi Arabia finishing bottom of this group. Had Bert Van Marwijk stayed in charge of the national team they may have had a small % chance of qualification but under Pizzi we see them much weaker.
FIFA Ranking: 17th
Qualification: Uruguay had a stellar qualifying campaign finishing 2nd to Brazil in the CONMEBOL qualification. They went undefeated in 13/18 games and were the second highest scorers in South America with a total of 32 goals.
History: Uruguay have a rich history in this competition having won it twice (1930 & 1950) and have a decent record of reaching the knockout stages. Since the 1980’s they’ve appeared five times in the World Cup finals and qualified from the group stage on four occasions.
Head Coach: Óscar Tabárez is one of the longest standing International coaches of all time, he’s been in charge of the Uruguayan national team since 2006 and lead them to a Copa America title in 2011 as well as a World Cup semi-final in 2010.
Players to watch: Luis Suarez (Barcelona) Edinson Cavani (PSG) Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Stage of Elimination: We see Uruguay winning this group with relative ease. If they win the Group they’ll face the runners-up in Group B who will likely be Portugal or Spain.