World Cup Group A Preview: Key stats, info and odds
Dave Burin | 6 June 2018
Hosts Russia and Uruguay amongst the four
World Cup fever begins on Thursday 14th June, with Group A pair Russia and Saudi Arabia facing off in Moscow.
The Coral News Team kick off this series of previews on each World Cup group with a look at the four sides in Group A – starting with the hosts.
Manager: The experienced Stanislav Cherchesov is the man in charge. The 54-year-old took over in 2016, following a brief but successful stint at Legia Warsaw.
Best WC result: Since independence in 1991, Russia have made it to three World Cups before now – but bowed out in the Group Stage every time. They reached the semi-finals in 1966 as the Soviet Union.
How they play: Cherchesov tends to switch things around a bit, but a 3-5-2 system is the most common.
One to watch: Prolific hitman Fyodor Smolov has been either top-scorer or runner-up in three successive Russian Premier League campaigns. He also bagged a brace for the national side in the recent 3-3 draw with Spain.
Things to consider: Hosting the tournament is a big advantage – but there’s a question over whether Russia would be here otherwise. A dismal Euro 2016 campaign and a rapidly ageing squad suggest the answer might be no.
Manager: Head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has formerly managed Valencia and Chile, and has no shortage of experience on the big stage.
Best WC result: USA ’94 was as good as it’s been so far for the Saudis. They reached the last-16, and recorded a memorable group stage win over Belgium.
How they play: The Green Falcons tend to line up in a 4-2-3-1, with experienced striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi leading the line.
One to watch: Versatile and solid, Al-Hilal lynchpin Yasser Al-Shahrani is a tricky and composed performer.
Things to consider: While they’re a decent and well-organised side, Pizzi’s squad lacks a really top-class performer in any position. That fact means they’re likely to pull off at least one or two hard-fought draws, but it’s difficult to see them having the crucial bit of individual quality needed to win games on this stage.
Manager: The experienced Hector Cuper has managed in eight different countries, and has now led the African outfit to a first World Cup finals appearance since Italia 90.
Best WC result: Both of Egypt’s prior appearances have seen them crash out at the first hurdle.
How they play: Cuper favours a 4-3-2-1 system, with Mohamed Salah leading the line.
One to watch: Fans on these shores already know all about Salah. But Los Angeles FC’s Omar Gaber is also a reliable and talented presence at full-back.
Things to consider: Historically, the Pharaohs have been as hit-and-miss as it comes. They won three Africa Cup of Nations titles from 2006-2010, then failed to reach the next three.
Much of their hopes in Russia hang on the prolific Salah, and specifically on his fitness. The Liverpool star was injured in the Champions League Final, and is rushing to get fit in time to help the national side.
Manager: Head coach Oscar Tabarez is one of the longest-serving managers at this World Cup. Uruguay boss since 2006, he led them to Copa America glory in 2011.
Best WC result: Uruguay have lifted the World Cup trophy twice, in 1930 and 1950 respectively. Their best performance in modern times was a semi-final berth in 2010.
How they play: A tried and tested 4-4-2, with Atletico Madrid duo Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin at centre-back.
One to watch: Young striker Maxi Gomez hit 17 goals for Celta Vigo in La Liga last term, and could be crucial off the bench.
Things to consider: They’ve endured a few patchy Copa Americas since the last World Cup, exiting in the Group Stage in 2016.
However, La Celeste qualified comfortably for this tournament, and boast an enviable array of attacking options, including Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Christhian Stuani and Gomez.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing