From now until the world cup, I’ll be previewing the world cup by analysing each group, starting on A and finishing on I.
Let’s start with the hosts, Russia are a very hard team to predict, because they never went through a qualification stage. Since they are the hosts, they are guaranteed a spot in group A. All I can take from this team is their performance in the 2016 euros, which was poor all around. They were very poor defensively and failed to show any attacking quality. They are also the lowest ranked team at the World Cup. They are the hardest team to predict, and they will also do the worst in this group. They are the lowest ranked team for a reason. The players themselves are very old. The average age of this squad is 28.4. that is absolutely ridiculous. Many players, like Akinfeev, Kudrayshov and Zhirkov. The biggest miss for them by a mile is easily the injury to Kokorin. The Zenit marksman scored 16 in 31, and bagged 6 in 9 in the Europa league. He sustained an ACL injury in the competition in March, ruling him out of the world cup. It’s a big miss for them, but they still have some good options to fill his boots. No they will have to rely on Dzyuba, who has done pretty well for his new club after leaving Zenit, scoring 6 in 10 appearances, Chalov, who has scored 6 in 1020 minutes. And Smolov. Out of the three, he has been performing the best, scoring 26 in 29 for Krasnador. All could fill the boots of Kokorin very effectively. I predict they will finish bottom of their group, because of their aging squad.
Next up is Saudi Arabia, one of many teams no one thought make it. I will not pretend as if I have seen them play, but from looking up how they did in qualifying.They finished top of their group in the second round of the AFC, finishing above the United Arab Emirates, and joining Japan and Australia into the third round. They had plenty of success in the third round, finishing second in group B. They will be relying on their goalscorer Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, who finished top of the whole AFC to help Saudi Arabia quality for the World Cup. They will be hoping he will continue his form into the tournament, but it won’t help another team with a very old squad, only 0.2 younger than the Russians. Third will be their finishing position.
The next two teams will be much easier to discuss, since I actually know players from their teams. Egypt qualified in a very dramatic way, with Mo Salah scoring a 94th minute penalty in the play off game against Congo, to send them through. In fact, the only reason why I think Egypt will do well in the entire Competition, is because of their dynamic forward. He is having a season similar to Messi, by carrying his teams through games with his talent alone. While I do like some of the other players in the squad (Hegazi and Elneny especially), it is all on Salah to pull his team through this relatively easy group. If he has a good world cup, they will finish 1st
Uruguay seem to be getting better by the season. Their heavy reliance on Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani cannot last much longer, with both over the age of thirty. It could be their last world cup. While both are exceptional players, they still have other talents who have had excellent seasons. Torreira has shown himself to be a potential world class midfielder, with him already being linked as Jorginho’s replacement, and Vecino, who has had a very solid time in Milan. While he won’t be starting, Christian Stuani has been excellent for Girona, scoring 16 in La Liga. Even with Suarez and Cavani aging, Maxi Gomez at Celta Viga is starting to look like a real talent. Even in defense we have known that Varela and Gimenez both look like solid players in the team. While their big two players will start to diminish, their future is starting to look bright. While I do like this team, I think Egypt have the momentum from their dramatic qualification still fresh, and that will help them finish above Uruguay.