FIFA World Cup 2018: Group A preview
Hosts Russia along with Uruguay, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia form group A. We take a closer look at all four teams and their chances in the World Cup.
Uruguay are clearly the favourites to top the group, while Russia and Egypt are expected to contest for a second place finish. Saudi Arabia have been written off by many as one of weakest teams in the World Cup.
The hosts Russia will be under immense pressure to perform well in the World Cup which has been marred by controversies by the western media.
The team is managed by Stanislav Cherchesov who took over the realms after a disastrous Euro 2016 campaign where they finished last. He has brought in a lot of changes in a team including a switch to back three. The results though are yet to come as Russia struggled in the FIFA Confederations Cup and were beaten convincingly at home by France and Brazil in March.
Injuries to have not been very kind to Russia. Two key defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya have been ruled out of the World Cup due to Injuries. Star striker Alexander Kokorin who scored 19 goals for Zenit in the first half of season will miss the event to due to a cruciate ligament injury suffered during March.
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Despite all problems around them Russia is expected to have a decent outing and make it through from the group stage in the World Cup.
Expected Formation: 3-5-2
Key Players: Igor Akinfeev, Aleksandr Golovin, Fyodor Smolov.
Uruguay are clearly the favourites to top the ‘Group A’. Despite being a relatively small nation Uruguay are no short of producing talented footballers and they had a relatively easier qualification round under veteran manager Oscar Tabarez.
This might also be the last opportunity for the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Godín to have a shot at winning the World Cup.
They play a typical 4-4-2 formation and have a well-balanced squad which compliments their system. Luiz Suarez and Edison Cavani are expected to feature up front. The Atletico Madrid centre-backs Godín and Jose Gimenez will start at defence and young Juventus central midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur will be expected to anchor the midfield.
Expected formation: 4-4-2
Key players: Diego Godin, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani
Egypt have had to wait for a length of over 28 years to play in the World Cup. The Pharaohs won 3 consecutive Africa Cup of Nations between 2006 and 2010 were unable to replicate their form in the World Cup Qualifiers.
Argentine manager Hector Cuper who took over the team during 2015 has brought a lot of positive changes to the side. His defensive and counter-attacking style of play was not really loved by the fans during the start of his tenure but he brought in the results which the previous managers couldn’t.
Egypt made it to the finals of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and managed to qualify for the World Cup ahead of the likes of Ghana from their group. Cúper has established Egypt as one of Africas strongest teams in the World Cup.
The major concerns for Egypt will be injuries to midfielder Mohamed Elneny and star player Mohamed Salah who has established himself as one of Best forwards in the world with a magnificent season at Liverpool. Despite both the players expected to return to action in the World Cup there has been concern whether they would be at their best fitness.
Egypt is expected to provide strong competition to both Uruguay and Russia and Many believe that they have a very good chance of making it through to the next round.
Expected Formation: 4-5-1 or 4-3-3
Key Players: Mohamed Elneny, Mohamed Salah, Mahmoud Trézéguet, Ahmed Hegazi
Saudi Arabia has been written off by many as one of weakest teams in the World Cup. Despite qualifying for the World Cup the Green Falcons have had a bizarre year where have they had 3 managers in the span of 3 months. Bert van Marwijk, who led them to the World Cup, was sacked by their FA and replaced by Edgardo Bauza who lasted only for 5 games. The team is currently managed by Juan Antonio Pizzi who has managed to turn their fortunes around in last few months.
The team has made quite some improvements under Pizzi despite having some horrendous results at the start of his tenure including a 4-1 trashing at the hands of Iraq. They dominated their friendly matches against Algeria and Greece and had a very good outing against Italy despite losing 2-1.
Under Pizzi Saudi Arabia try to play out from the back, press and attack in numbers. The results are quite evident as they dominated possession against Italy despite losing.
Expected Formation: 4-2-3-1
Key Players: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Yahya Al-Shehri.