The 2018 World Cup is days from kick off, but which side will emerge from the pack to lift the famous trophy in Russia? With 32 teams slogging it out for supremacy, Marathonbet takes a closer look at each World Cup finals group in a bid to whittle down the contenders.
Group A: Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay
It would be a nightmare for hosts Russia to be knocked out early – and even worse if they do so by failing to qualify from this group.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side are currently ranked 65th in the world, 44 places below group favourites Uruguay. They’re no strangers to big-tournament success, having won the Euros in 1960, and they made it to the World Cup semi-finals just four years later in 1966. Krasnodar forward Fyodor Smolov, one of the top scorers in the Russian Premier League, will be hoping to fire his country into the last 16.
The main danger in Group A comes from South Americans Uruguay, who were world champions as hosts in 1930 and at Brazil 1950. They finished second in their World Cup qualifying group ahead of Argentina and Colombia but ten points off eventual winners Brazil. Star striker Edinson Cavani has scored more than 40 goals in just under 100 appearances for Uruguay since making his debut in 2008 and hopes will be pinned on him and Barcelona hitman Luis Suarez to fire them out of the groups.
Egypt, the second team from Africa to book their place in Russia, could also pose problems. They topped their qualifying group with a game to spare and make their first appearance at the World Cup finals for 28 years. Premier League participation comes from the likes of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Mohamed El-Neny and it’s this pair who will need to be on form if Egypt are to beat Russia to that second qualifying spot should Uruguay justify their favourites tag.
Saudi Arabia have the pleasure of kicking off the tournament against Russia but odds suggest there’s little chance of them making it past the groups. On the betting front, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi netted 16 goals on the road to Russia though eight of those were against minnows Timor-Leste. The 30-year-old frontman finished 2018 World Cup qualifying as joint-top scorer and will be their most likely player to find the net if you’re into ‘first goalscorer’ or ‘anytime goal scorer’ markets.
Group A top stat:
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary will be aged 45 years when the Pharaohs take to the pitch at Russia 2018. If he features, El-Hadary will break Faryd Mondragon’s record (43) as the World Cup’s oldest player
Marathonbet odds for winning the group: Uruguay (11/10) Russia (8/5) Egypt (5/1) Saudi Arabia (40/1). Check out the full Group A betting markets here.
When and where can I watch Group A games? And what TV channels are they on?
Thursday June 14: Russia v Saudi Arabia, Moscow (4pm, ITV)
Friday June 15: Egypt v Uruguay, Yekaterinburg (1pm, BBC)
Tuesday June 19: Russia v Egypt, Saint Petersburg (7pm, BBC)
Wednesday June 20: Uruguay v Saudi Arabia, Rostov-on-Don (4pm, BBC)
Monday June 25: Uruguay v Russia, Samara (3pm, ITV)
Monday June 25: Saudi Arabia v Egypt, Volgograd (3pm, ITV4)