World Cup 2018 Preview – Group A
The 2018 World Cup will kick off with a match between Russia, who are the hosts and Saudi Arabia. The game will be played in the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.
Russia and Saudi Arabia combine with Uruguay and Egypt to complete Group A. This group is home to two of the lowest ranked nations at the 2018 World Cup but will have plenty of interest from local fans and those hoping the host nation can progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
Russia have failed to advance beyond the group stages of any tournament since 2008 and they will be under huge pressure to change that fact at the 2018 World Cup in-front of their own fans.
Many onlookers feel this home World Cup has come at the wrong time for Russia and not only have they been in poor form competitively, they have been struggling to win friendly matches.
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov’s appointment means a return to domestic coaches for Russia but the feeling is the former Legia Warsaw boss will set up his team defensively throughout the tournament.
Key Player: With that in mind, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev will be key for Russia. The CSKA Moscow number one is hugely experienced but when it comes to big European matches with his club, clean sheets are rare.
Saudi Arabia have the honour of starting the 2018 World Cup with Russia and the result in that match will go a long way in determining their fate in Group A.
Having reached the Round of 16 in the 1994 World Cup, Saudi Arabia have failed to progress beyond the group stages in their last three attempts. Having sacked the manager who took them to the World Cup finals, the Green Falcons have appointed Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi failed to take Chile to the 2018 World Cup, falling from third to sixth on the final match day. Question marks remain on what the Argentine can do with this Saudi Arabia squad.
Key Player: Striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi will need to show the form he produced in the qualifying matches if Saudi Arabia are going progress from this group. He was joint top scorer in Asian qualifying, netting 16 times in total.
Uruguay come into this group as the favourites to finish top and reach the Round of 16. They finished second in the tough South American qualifying section and will be hoping to build on their performance in Brazil four years ago.
The Charruas have plenty of quality in both attack and defence and will be hoping to keep things tight while the forwards do the damage in the attacking third.
Manager: Oscar Tabarez has overseen the Uruguay national team for over 10 years and has great experience of World Cup football. There is no doubting his ability to manage this team.
Key Player: All eyes will be on Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up-front but the presence of Diego Godin at the back cannot be underestimated. The Atletico Madrid centre back will be key in terms of keeping the defence solid and leading the team.
There were wild celebrations in the streets around Egypt when the Pharaohs qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
Their last appearance came back in 1990 and Egypt have been eliminated at the group stage on both occasions they have reached the finals. However, with Russia and Saudi Arabia in Group A, Egypt will fancy their chances of making history in this tournament.
Manager: Hector Cuper is a hugely experienced coach in terms of club football but this will be his first foray into the World Cup. His knowledge of South American and European football will be useful.
Key Player: There is only one man capable of leading Egypt out of this group and his name is Mohamed Salah. The pacey forward has been in sensational form for Liverpool and if he can carry that over to the summer, Egypt have a chance.