The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on June 14, and Group A will get all the action started. Tournament host Russia opens the competition against Saudi Arabia, with Uruguay and Egypt making up the rest of the group.
The host nation traditionally enjoys a strong advantage in front of home supporters, particularly in the opening matches. With the exception of South Africa in the 2010 edition, each host have been able to advance past the group stage throughout the history of the World Cup.
Russia certainly have the capability of accomplishing that goal in the World Cup, and will be looking to avenge a poor showing at Euro 2016 (both on the pitch and with fan behaviour). Manager Stanislav Cherchesov leads a squad eager to impress, and will be expecting players such as captain Igor Akinfeev and Artem Dzyuba to make a significant impact.
A well organised and disciplined squad, the key obstacle for Russia will be scoring goals consistently throughout the tournament.
Saudi Arabia return to the World Cup for the first time since 2006, with domestic clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli making up the majority of the team. That chemistry will be important, as manager Juan Antonio Pizzi aims to guide the Green Falcons beyond the group stage.
Egypt are back in the competition after a long absence, last competing at the 1990 edition in Italy. There was plenty of confidence about their chances in Group A, until an unfortunate injury to their key player.
Mohamed Salah’s shoulder injury in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid was a disaster for Liverpool, and many thought the same would be true for Egypt. However, the 25-year-old is expected to be fit and available for the Pharaohs this summer.
The final side in Group A will be two-time World Cup winners Uruguay, and they will be bringing plenty of attacking skill to the competition. With the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front, opposing defenders will need to be at their best in the group stage games.
Captain Diego Godin leads a team that is capable of making a deep run in the tournament if they are able to keep their focus and take advantage of critical opportunities.
How Group A will conclude
The clear favourites in the group will be Uruguay, and La Celeste should finish first ahead of the knockout rounds. Ultimately, their attack should be able to deliver at least two victories in the opening stage.
The second spot is where the most intrigue is found, and it will all depend on one individual. Mohamed Salah’s fitness will be the determining element, and that will decide Egypt’s fate moving forward.
With his creativity and skill leading the front-line, there is no reason that the squad can’t find enough points to advance. But if he is unable to contribute effectively, Russia could find themselves playing in the Round of 16.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will provide drama and excitement throughout the coming weeks, and much of that will likely be coming from Group A.
Group A prediction: