4 June 2018

Africa: X-raying 2018 FIFA World Cup Teams – Group A

Photo: The Guardian
All the Groups for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Tournament football is radically different from a league played over 38 weeks spanning nine months. The team that will win the 2018 FIFA World Cup will play seven matches over a 30-day period. Mental and physical wherewithal, as well as fast recuperative powers will help the winner, plus a slice of luck and some favourable VAR decisions.

Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, and Egypt

Russia – In current form, the hosts a re struggling and have lost four out of their last five friendly matches, conceding 11 goals and scoring five. They need a good start against Saudi Arabia on June 14 to give some impetus to the team and belief to the fans.

Average Age: 28.8

Total number of Caps: 640

FIFA Ranking: 66

Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov [54]

Three best players: Igor Akinfeev, Alan Dzagoev, Artem Dzyuba

Greatest Display: Haven’t gone beyond the group stage as Russia

Nickname: Sbornaya [National Team]

Conclusion: The 2018 hosts could become the second World Cup hosting nation to be knocked out in the first round. That is assuming the 12th man fails to play a decisive role in getting them into the round of 16.

Saudi Arabia – It looks like this would be another exercise in participation for the Saudis. They have been beaten heavily in two of their last five friendlies – 4-0 loss to Brazil in March and a 3-0 loss to Peru two weeks before their opening match against the hosts.

Average Age: 28.6

Total number of Caps: 772

FIFA Ranking: 67

Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi [49]

Three best players: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Osama Hawsawi, Taisir Al-Jassim

Greatest Display: 1994 – they qualified for the Round of 16 with the Netherland from Group F, beating Morocco and Belgium to second place.

Nickname: The Green Falcons

Conclusion: It is hard to see the Saudis beating any of their Group A opponents, having not won a match at the World Cup finals since the Mundial was staged in the USA in 1994. A good tournament would be not conceding a basket full of goals in Russia.

Uruguay – The last realistic tournament for the golden generation of Diego Godin, Edinson Cavani, and Luis Suarez to win. Can they? Anything is possible in football and they have some talented players that can back up these three generals.

Average Age: 30.4

Total number of Caps: 1055

FIFA Ranking: 17

Manager: Oscar Tabarez [71]

Three best players: Diego Godin, Edinson Cavani, and Luis Suarez

Greatest display: Champions in 1930 and 1950

Nickname: La Celeste [The Sky Blue]

Conclusion: They will get to the second round; anything after this time their experience could take them to the semis, which would be a bonus.

Egypt – After qualifying for a first World Cup since 1990, the Egyptians have a somewhat capable side. But a lot depends on the match fitness of their talisman, Mohamed Salah.

Average Age: 28.4

Total number of Caps: 884

FIFA Ranking: 46

Manager: Hector Cuper [62]

Three best players: Mohamed Salah, Mohamed El Neny, Ahmed Hegazi

Greatest display: A 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in 1990

Nickname: Pharaohs

Conclusion: It all depends on their first match against Uruguay. If they don’t lose, then they can make the progression to the round of 16 for the first time ever – if they lose, both matches against Saudi Arabia and Russia will just get that bit tougher, but they have enough to progress.

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