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World Cup betting preview: Group A

Uruguay to dominate, but second place up for grabs


Group A Betting Preview



Time: Local/BST



Russia v Saudi Arabia


Moscow (Luzhniki)


Egypt v Uruguay




Russia v Egypt


Saint Petersburg


Uruguay v Saudi Arabia




Uruguay v Russia




Saudi Arabia v Egypt




This is certainly one of the weakest groups in this year’s World Cup with Russia being put in as the top seed by default. The hosts have lost four of their last five winless friendly matches (ahead of one final friendly), although four of those were against top contenders in France, Brazil, Spain and Argentina. That said, over the five World Cups since 1998, five out of the total six hosts (2002 had co-hosts in South Korea & Japan)have topped their group, as only South Africa failed to do so in 2010.

Interestingly, South Africa only just missed out on advancing to the next stage on goal difference that year, having beaten France in their final group game. Furthermore, that South African side was the comfortably the worst host nation we’ve had in our grading system in that time with Russia coming into this considerably higher, so they should certainly have a solid chance of at least qualifying. However, they do have injury worries with both Viktor Vasin and Aleksandr Kokorin out with cruciate ligament injuries and without the latter there will certainly be pressure on Fedor Smolov to deliver upfront.

Uruguay finished the CONMEBOL qualifiers in second place behind World Cup favourites Brazil. They went a respectable W9-D4-L5 through qualification and are the deserved favourites to top this group, with our grading system ranking them as the ninth best team at the competition and the other three in the group all in the six worst. With the Atletico Madrid centre-back pairing of Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin, consistently recognised as the best defence in the club game, and two world class strikers in Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez they look a cut above their opposition. They won the recent China Cup in March and they’ll be confident of securing top spot and advancing to the knockout stages. 

Egypt have an injury scare following Mohamed Salah’s exit in the Champions League final. The Egyptian winger will travel to Spain for shoulder treatment and is a doubt to be fit for the first game against Uruguay on 15th June and is certainly unlikely to be 100%. They look a strong unit defensively with the likes of Ahmed Hegazi and Mohamed Elneny, as they look to sit deep and play on the counter-attack, however, without Salah they may struggle to find the goals. Our gradings essentially put Egypt on a par with Russia and Saudi Arabia, although the hosts’ home advantage should be enough to give them the edge. Moreover, the African side will have to travel more distance than any other team through the group stage, including a 3660km round trip for their opener against Uruguay followed by a 4250km round trip to play Russia in St. Petersburg with just four days between matches.

Saudi Arabia haven’t been given much of a chance in this group as a 50/1 shot. That said, they managed to win 12 of their 18 qualification matches with a notable victory over Japan in their last game to finish above Australia and secure an automatic place at the World Cup finals. However, a 4-0 thumping from Belgium in a recent friendly will be a little concerning and this side has a lot to prove if they are to progress to the knockouts.

The clear favourites in this group are Uruguay who’ve come up against much more competitive opposition through qualifying. With the gap in our gradings between the two highest ranked sides in this group larger than any other group we’re going to back the South Americans to come out as winners.

Recommendation: Group A Winner Uruguay at 10/13 

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