Egypt's Mohammed Salah (C) and the team celebrate after scoring the 1:0 during the soccer friendly game Portugal against Egypt in the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, Switzerland, 23 March 2018. EPA/MELANIE DUCHENE
Monday Jun 04, 2018. 16:36
2018 World Cup, Group A
Dates – 14-25 June, 2018
Venues – Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Volgograd
Group A at the 2018 World Cup will feature a Russian team looking to avoid the embarrassment of a first-round exit, while Egypt will be hopeful of advancing in their first appearance at the tournament in almost three decades.
Hosts Russia will open the tournament and the group with a clash against Saudi Arabia in Moscow on 14 June. While it’s hardly the most enticing of opening matches for such a major tournament, it’s a key clash for the Russians, who will need a strong start to alleviate fears that they will follow in the footsteps of South Africa in 2010 and become just the second host nation to fall at the first hurdle.
South American heavyweights Uruguay look to be the dominant force in the group, with Oscar Tabarez’s side second to only Brazil in the notoriously difficult CONMEBOL qualifying tournament. Boasting the likes of Diego Godin, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, two-time champions ‘La Celeste’ have a good mix of youth and experience and should have no trouble finishing in the top two.
The team most likely to join Uruguay in advancing could well be Egypt. The North Africans are returning to the World Cup for the first time since 1990, but they have a talented, versatile team and a manager in Hector Cuper whose pragmatism is well suited to the do-or-die nature of tournament football.
Yet the question mark over the fitness of talisman Mohamed Salah is a major concern, with the Liverpool man in a race against time to be fit for the finals after suffering a serious shoulder injury in the UEFA Champions League final last month.
Saudi Arabia are returning to the World Cup after missing the last editions in 2010 and 2014, and their solid showing in qualifying (they finished runners-up to Asian powerhouses Japan in their group) suggests they are not to be underestimated. The Green Falcons are capable of frustrating more talented teams, but they lack the real attacking potency needed to compete at the highest level.
Group A fixtures (all times CAT)
14 June 2018, 17h00 – Russia v Saudi Arabia – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
15 June 2018, 14h00 – Egypt v Uruguay – Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
19 June 2018, 20h00 – Russia v Egypt – Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg
20 June 2018, 17h00 – Uruguay v Saudi Arabia – Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
25 June 2018, 16h00 – Uruguay v Russia – Cosmos Arena, Samara
25 June 2018, 16h00 – Saudi Arabia v Egypt – Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Group A head-to-heads (as per FIFA stats database, in reference to ‘home’ team)
Russia v Saudi Arabia – P1 W0 D0 L1 GF2 GA4
Egypt v Uruguay – P1 W0 D L1 GF0 GA2
Russia v Egypt – No previous matches
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia – P2 W0 D1 L1 GF3 GA4
Uruguay v Russia – P8 W1 D2 L5 GF5 GA14
Saudi Arabia v Egypt – P6 W1 D1 L4 GF7 GA19