Would Cup Group A: Should be Uruguay's to Lose

uruguay soccer

SBR Staff

Monday, April 23, 2018 8:34 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 23, 2018 8:34 PM UTC

Group A of the Russia 2018 World Cup is the weakest group out of all eight. Only one team in Group A is ranked in the top 20 (Uruguay, at 17).

Skybook Odds to Advance from Group A
  • Uruguay -500
  • Russia -300
  • Egypt +170
  • Saudi Arabia +700

Having Uruguay ranked 17th and yet being the Group A favorite on the soccer odds board says a lot. No other group for this year's World Cup has a top team with a ranking lower than 10 (Group H, Poland). Further, two of the teams in this group -- Russia and Saudi Arabia -- are the lowest-ranked teams in the whole tournament.

This is good news for the host nation, as they have a better chance at making it into the knockout rounds, which is something Russia has not done since the Soviet Union dissolved in the 1990s. However, that does not mean that advancing will be easy for the Russians. Ranked 66, they are still behind the other team in this group, Egypt, who FIFA ranks as 46th. Egypt is a very committed team defensively under Argentine head coach Hector Cuper, and in the last 34 matches dating to 2015 have let their opponents score only 17 times. Egypt has recorded 12 shutouts in that span.

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REWINDโช๐Ÿ†

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Visit Facebook at 16.00 CET on Friday 27 April to view ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝMexico versus arch-rivals ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธUSA!

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This means that assuming Uruguay locks up the first place spot in Group A -- something they should be able to do easily -- the real battle will come down to Egypt and Russia for the second spot. The two teams play each other on June 19, and it will be the second game of World Cup for both. The lines for this match are open at Skybook.

Egypt will be coming off its game with Uruguay, and Russia will have already played the opener with Saudi Arabia, a game that they should win. With no match history between these two teams, it is difficult to say how this match will play out for your World Cup picks, but it is a safe bet to say that two of the main factors will be Egypt's superstar Mohamed Salah of Liverpool, and Russia's ability to penetrate the thick Egyptian defense.

Russia does possess an exciting attack, with Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moskow leading the way. He is joined by CSKA teammate Aleksandr Golovin and Krasnodar's Fyodor Smolov, who is tied as the current leading goal scorer for this team with 12 international goals. Aleksandr Kokorin is the other goal leader, and the Zenit St Petersburg forward had an excellent 2017 campaign with his club team. The combination of these forwards should be enough to weaken and penetrate the Egyptian defense, who are more used to playing regional rivals that don't possess the firepower that Russia has.

In fact, since May 2017, the only teams Egypt has beaten are Yemen, Libya, Uganda and Congo. What Egypt does have going for it is Salah, who recently became the first Liverpool forward to score 40 goals since 1987.

The other two teams in this group, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia, represent the extremes. Uruguay finished qualifying as the second best team in the COMENBOL behind Brazil. They have proven talent up front in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavanni, and a wealth of young up and comers such as Matias Vecino of Inter Milan and Federico Valverde of Real Madrid.

With this sort of attack, there is no reason Uruguay shouldn't dominate this group. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, does not have many well-known players. Of its entire roster, only a handful of players have more than 50 caps. They did score the most goals in the Asian qualifying rounds though, so there may be some hidden gems on this team. Still, it is very unlikely that they will even win a game.

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