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

Stelly’s sidewalk gets green light

Federal funding brings project to fruition

Witnesses sought for alleged drunk driver crash in Sidney

Crash happened June 16 on East Saanich Rd. and Canora Dr.

Fake crash warns students about real consequences

Saanich Peninsula emergency crews warn against distracted driving

An upstart ferry company might be a Malahat alternative

A new ferry service might alleviate Malahat congestion. Dogwood Ferries is a… Continue reading

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

New Jersey forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

Vancouver’s Sedin brothers share King Clancy Award for humanitarian efforts

GoFundMe page launched for families of missing Vancouver Island fishermen

Search for three men whose vessel capsized near Tofino on June 15 continues.

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

Police look for driver of blue Jeep who may have helped at fatal crash

A 19-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Delta on June 2

Most Read