African Footballer of the Year and Premier League Footballer of the Year Mohamed Salah hopes to be ready for Egypt’s first group stage match against Uruguay on Friday, June 15. (via @premierleague/Twitter)

FIFA World Cup preview: Uruguay expected to stomp through Group A

Suarez and Cavani leading the charge against Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14. Leading up to the tourney, we’ll offer our previews and predictions for each of the eight groups, beginning with a look at Group A:

Russia (hosts)

FIFA rank (as of June 7, 2018): 66

Best player: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow)

Their captain has 106 caps for the national team and has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world during his career.

One to watch: Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar)

Smolov was second in goal-scoring in the Russian Premier League in 2017-18 and will be leaned on as the starting striker for Russia.

Outlook:

Russia comes into the tournament as the second-lowest ranked team and has not advanced past the group stage of any tournament since 2008. They qualified because they are hosting the World Cup. They play a gritty style and are focused on defence first. They lucked out by achieving the easiest draw of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia

FIFA rank: 67

Best player: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr)

After scoring 16 goals in Asian qualifying, the 30-year-old striker will need to provide much of Saudi Arabia’s offence.

One to watch: Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante)

A young winger who joined Levante this year on loan. He’s exceptionally speedy and has great technical ability.

Outlook:

Saudi Arabia has not won a match at the World Cup in 10 group stage matches and that may not change anytime soon. However, being in the group that they are in, anything is possible and an Egypt without Salah does not look that promising.

Egypt

FIFA rank: 46

Best player: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Salah won a series of awards this year, including being named English Premier League footballer of the year. He was instrumental in leading Liverpool to the Champions League finals. After suffering a shoulder injury in the final against Real Madrid, it’s unclear whether he’ll play in the first group stage match against Uruguay.

One to watch: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)

Elneny is a 25-year-old defensive midfielder who will be the backbone of Egypt’s midfield. He appeared in 13 matches for Arsenal in the English Premier League this past season.

Outlook:

Egypt revolves around Salah. He is one of the best attackers in the world, and if he does not come back healthy in time for their first group stage match against Uruguay, then they might as well wave their hopes goodbye.

Uruguay

FIFA rank: 17

Best player: Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

PSG’s Edinson Cavani is a close second behind Suarez. Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading goal scorer with 50 goals. In four years with Barcelona, Suarez has amassed 110 goals in 130 matches for the powerhouse club.

One to watch: Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria)

Though he’s only recorded two caps for the Uruguayan side, the 22-year-old midfielder had a phenomenal year in the Calcio A and has been linked to joining Arsenal for their next season.

Outlook:

Uruguay is virtually guaranteed to advance through this year’s group stage. If Suarez and Cavani can continue their seasonal form look for Uruguay to make a push deep into the knockout stages.

Group winner: Uruguay. This should not even be a question.

Group runner-up: Egypt. With the number of English Premier League players on their roster and the probability of the EPL’s top goal-scorer returning to the lineup, Egypt should advance.


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Home care complaints up 45% on Vancouver Island

Number of home care hours delivered down 6%, complaints up 45 %

Changes coming to proposed condo project near Elk Lake

Mike Geric Construction has informed neighbourhood association of possible changes

More than 115 people attend UVic blood drive

Canadian Blood Services says UVic is a target location to create lifetime donors

Parkland musical theatre lights up the stage with Grease

North Saanich school stages show Jan. 30 to Feb. 2

Ousted legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Pioneering Telegraph Cove whale watching company cast adrift after 38 years

Stubbs Island Whale Watching announced it is ceasing operation

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

One-third of pregnant women think cannabis won’t harm their baby: UBC

Review of six U.S. studies found doctors didn’t communicate health risks of pot use

Viewing area at Sooke Potholes likely to remain closed

Officials concerned about safety following rockslide last week

Most Read