Your round up of every team playing in Russia 2018 begins with Group A. You can catch all the action live at Topgolf.
Without the privilege of qualifying automatically as host nation, it’s doubtful Russia would have reached this World Cup. After crashing out of Euro 2016 in the group stages, the Sbornaya repeated the trick at the Confederations Cup, losing to Portugal and Mexico on home soil.
Source: Russia-Chile is licensed by CC2.0
But many Russians still have faith in coach Stanislav Cherchesov – who has moved to a 3-5-2 formation and given responsibility to young, creative midfielders such as CSKA Moscow’s Aleksndr Golovin and Lokomotiv twins Aleksei and Anton Miranchuk. With an unreliable defence providing a less than solid foundation, Cherchesov will be forced to outgun the opposition, which should at least make this Russia team a more entertaining outfit than the 2016 vintage.
A classic World Cup underdog, one might assume that Saudi Arabia would do their best to get the basics right before taking on the big boys in the tournament proper. You’d be wrong to assume this, of course; coach Bert Van Marwijk was fired after achieving surprise qualification, following a falling out with the Saudi FA.
Source: ASA-UKR warm-up by Photocapy is licensed by CC2.O
Van Marwijk was quickly replaced by Argentine Edgardo Bauza, who was then sacked for losing a couple of friendly matches. The man who will lead Saudi come June is another Argentine, Juan Antonio Pizzi – presuming he too isn’t handed a premature P45.
Everyone knows about Luis Suarez but La Celeste are no one-man team. Defences across the world fear the threat of Edinson Cavani, while the supporting cast of Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde (on loan at Deportivo La Coruna) and Juventus winger Rodrigo Bentancur provide plenty of back-up ammunition.
Source: Uruguay 4 – Chile 0 by Jimmy Baikovicius is licensed by CC-BY-SA
Uruguay are no slouches at the back either; how could they be with Diego Godín in the side? Óscar Tabárez’s team qualified comfortably in second place to Brazil and anything less than the quarter finals will be considered a disappointment this year. Let’s just hope Suarez keeps his temper in check…
Saudi Arabia aren’t the only team in the group managed by an Argentine; Héctor Cúper led Egypt to their first World Cup qualification since 1990. The pragmatic Cuper has converted Egypt to a watertight unit, with plenty to offer in attack, too.
Source: Egypt vs Algeria 2.0 by Muhammad Ghafari is licensed by CC 2.0
PFA player of the year Mo Salah is Egypt’s main threat from the right wing but Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan is no slouch on the left, either. Plus, Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny is partnered in midfield by the attack-minded Abdallah Said. If Salah and co can score at least one, Egypt will rate their chances; only once in 30 games have The Pharaohs conceded more than one goal under the current regime.
GROUP A FIXTURES LIVE AT TOPGOLF:
Russia vs Saudi Arabia - 14/06 - 4PM
Egypt vs Uruguay - 15/06 - 1PM
Russia vs Egypt - 19/06 - 7PM
Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia - 20/06 - 4PM
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt - 25/06 - 3PM
Uruguay vs Russia - 25/06 - 3PM