The World Cup draw has been made and the groups have been decided. This preview contains all you need to know about betting on World Cup Group A.
For an overview of the potential squads and starters for each team read Pinnacle's World Cup predicted lineups.
This World Cup Group A preview uses the ELO World Rankings since they are a better judge of quality than the official FIFA World Rankings.
World Cup Group A prediction: What do the odds say?
Elo World Ranking: 44
Pinnacle World Cup power ranking: 11
Previous best performance: 4th (1966 as part of the Soviet Union)
Top scorer in qualifying: Qualified automatically as hosts
Key player: Alan Dzagoev
Odds to advance from group: 1.362*
Odds to win World Cup: 51.000*
Russia enter their home World Cup after suffering from a poor run of tournament performances. The Russians have exited at the group stage in each of their last four major tournament appearances. A repeat of this performance would see them become only the second World Cup host to exit the tournament before the knockout rounds. Russia do not have a stellar name in their squad but the side is solid enough to challenge in Group A. If they can make the most of their home advantage then a run to the latter stages of the competition is a possibility.
Whilst previous tournaments have not gone well for this Russian team, one player who does have fond memories of a big occasion is attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev.
The CSKA Moscow playmaker was
The group stage at major tournaments has not always been kind to Russia. However, as host
If the group is tight then goal difference could become a deciding factor. Russia kick off their campaign against outsiders Saudi Arabia and a big win will make their task much simpler. Promisingly for the Russians, World Cup hosts are undefeated in the opening game of the tournament. Russia
Elo Ranking: 63
Pinnacle World Cup power ranking: 31
Previous best performance: Round of 16 (1994)
Top Scorer in qualifying: Mohammad Al Sahlawi (16 goals)
Key Player: Fahad Al Muwallad
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 651.00*
Three-time Asian champions Saudi Arabia finished second to Japan in qualifying, securing their first World Cup qualification since 2006. After picking up just two points from their last three World Cup finals appearances, the Saudis will need to perform far better to make an impact upon Group A.
Since qualifying the side has experienced two managerial changes. Qualification coach Bert Van Marwijk left to eventually be replaced by former Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi. Hired just months before the 2018 World Cup, it will be a tough challenge for Pizzi to form the side into a cohesive unit by the start of the tournament.
No player in the Saudi Arabian squad has played at the highest level, so this set of players is fairly unknown to most soccer fans. Mohammad Al Sahlawi is a standout name due to his strong international scoring record of 28 goals in 35 games.
The Saudi striker was joint top scorer across all qualifying regions with sixteen goals in ten games. This record may seem impressive, but eight of those goals were against Timor-Leste (World Elo Ranking 224). He should find it more difficult to score against Uruguay, Egypt and Russia than the likes of Malaysia and Thailand.
Saudi Arabia will play with a deep defence to try and force low scoring games. The success of such a tactic could depend on the form of rising star Fahad Al Muwallad. The skilful Al-Ittihad winger offers a get out ball for the Saudi Arabian side. He will need to use his ability to hold the ball up and relieve pressure on the defence.
Al Muwallad is perhaps the one Saudi player with the ability to cause the best defences problems, so opponents will need to make sure not to overcommit and leave him with too much space on the counter.
The only way the Saudi’s can realistically challenge in this group is through relying on
Elo Ranking: 31
Pinnacle World Cup power ranking: 22
Previous best performance: Group stage (1990)
Top Scorer in qualifying: Mohammad Salah (5 goals)
Key Player: Mohammad Salah
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 201.000*
Despite being Africa’s most successful side in terms of trophies, Egypt
Mohammed Salah’s emergence as a genuine star provides this Egyptian side with the quality that their best squads have often lacked. Egypt’s chances of progressing are likely to depend upon the performances of the Liverpool attacker. Salah scored pivotal goals in qualifying and had a direct involvement in six of Egypt’s eight qualification goals. He will need to recover from his Champions league final injury and be at his best to help Egypt through the group.
With their solid defence and the pace of Salah and skill of
If Salah can return to fitness and maintain his incredible form then Egypt will have a good chance of earning points against all three sides in the group. They will expect to beat Saudi Arabia and will be problematic opponents for both Russia and Uruguay, so, provided Salah plays some part in the group, a bet on Egypt to win over 3.5 points in group A at 2.030* could be a smart one.
Elo Ranking: 16
Pinnacle World Cup power ranking: 10
Previous best performance: Winners (1930, 1950)
Top Scorer in qualifying: Edinson Cavani (10 goals)
Key Player: Luis Suarez
Odds to advance from
Odds to win World Cup: 31.000*
Two-time winners Uruguay are favourites to qualify from Group A, and for good reason.
Their attack of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez is considered to be amongst the best in world football. This attacking strength is backed up by the Atletico Madrid defensive partnership of Diego Godín and José María Giménez who will bring the organisation of their club side to the national team. Uruguay qualified as the second placed South American team ahead of Argentina.
The Cavani and Suárez pairing in attack will be very difficult for even the best teams to stop. The strikers have 89 international goals between them and will probably add to that number in Russia. Cavani is a top class striker and consistent performer in his own right, but it is the form of Suárez that could be key to Uruguay’s World Cup chances.
The Barcelona player is capable of scoring at any time but is equally as infamous for his lapses in discipline. His ban at the 2014 World Cup played a big part in Uruguay’s elimination from that competition and it was another ban that caused him to miss the 2010 World Cup semi-final.
As good as the duos in attack and defence are it is the midfield that could be the most pivotal part of Uruguay’s team. The 2010 and 2014 Uruguay sides featured a fairly pedestrian and uninspired midfield made up of ageing defensive minded players and solid but unspectacular wide midfielders.
Recently, Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez has begun to incorporate members of their successful under 20 team. Youngsters including Depotivo’s Frederico Valverde and Juventus playmaker Rodrigo Bentancur have added extra energy to revitalise the Uruguayan side.