World Cup Group A Preview - Hosts feeling the weight of history

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 1 8,034

Pin Cherchesov's men face a sturggle to progress. EFE
Cherchesov's men face a sturggle to progress. EFE

World Cup Group A Preview - Hosts feeling the weight of history

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 1 8,034

We take an in-depth look at Group A ahead of this summer's World Cup.

Who is in the group?

Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.

Who are the favouries?

There is little surprise that Uruguay are the heavy favourites to win the group. Oscar Tabarez's side are currently ranked 14th in the world and have been given what many consider to be a favourable draw given that they were in Pot 2.

The teams:

Russia:

Preparations for the tournament on the pitch could hardly have gone much worse for the hosts. Things looked to have got off to a good start when they were handed Saudi Arabia in the draw, with the Saudis the closest team to Russia, who go into the tournament as the lowest-ranked side in the competition, in the FIFA World Rankings. However, injuries to a number of key players have hit Stanislav Chrchesov's side hard and they now face a struggle to become only the second team in World Cup history to fail to make it beyond the Group Stage on home turf. As if that weren't bad enough, the Russians have never made it to the knockout stages since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Uruguay:

Undoubtably the best side in the group, their strike pairing of Luis Surez and Edinson Cavani are capable of plundering goals against any team on their day, having scored 71 goals in 99 games between them at club level this season and that's without mentioning Cristhian Stuani, who himself scored 21 goals in La Liga this campaign. Though the decision to leave Gaston Ramirez out of the squad may rob them of some creativity, it suggests that the South Americans will be shunning the number 10 position in favour of a more direct approach. Tabarez's men have a point to prove, having come second behind Costa Rica in the groups and failed to progress beyond the last 16 in Brazil.

Egpyt:

Make no bones about it, Mo Salah's fitness is key to any hopes the Pharoahs have. With him, they have a potent attacking force, balanced out by the presence of Huddersfield-bound Ramadan Sobhi on the opposite flank. Without him, they lack cutting edge and could be frustrated by stubborn defences. Ahmed Hegazi's relative success in a relegated West Brom side has gone to show that there is hidden quality in this side, but the pressure of the biggest stage in world football will be an immense test for some of the lesser-known players. Egpyt go into the tournament having never won a game at the World Cup, meaning extending their stay beyond three games would be a hugely impressive feat.

Saudi Arabia:

The 'Green Falcons' have failed to win in their last nine World Cup games. A late update to the FIFA rankings they will not be going into the tournament at the lowest-ranked side, but finishing anywhere other than bottom could be considered a success for Juan Antonio Pizzi's men. Preparations have been far from perfect for the Saudis, having won just two of their last seven games in the run-up to the tournament. Little is expected of them and a repeat of their 1994 heroics which saw them reach the second round would be a real shock.

Team guides:

Russia

Uruguay

Egypt

Saudi Arabia

Matt Morley

Matt Morley

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