- Saudi Arabia
WorldCupAcca Confirmed Squad:
Keeper: E. El Hadary, M. El-Shennawy, S. Ekramy
Defence: A. Fathi, S. Samir, A. Ashraf, M. Hamdy, M. Abdel-Shafy, A. Hegazi, A. Gabr, A. Elmohamady, O. Gaber
Midfield: T. Hamed, Shikabala, A. Said, S. Morsy, M. Elneny, M. Kahraba, R. Sobhi, M. Hassan, A. Warda
Forward: M. Mohsen. M. Salah
The Pharaohs will be making only their third appearance in a World Cup and, thanks to a 95th minute penalty from Mo Salah, their first since 1990.
Their only previous appearance came in 1934, and between those 56 years they either did not enter the competition or just failed to qualify.
In their two tournament appearances they failed to win a game, losing to Hungary in ‘34 in the first round and finishing bottom of their group in 1990 after draws with Netherlands and Republic of Ireland and a 1-0 loss to England.
Egypt topped their qualification group with Uganda, Congo and Ghana as the Black Stars lost their way, first under Avram Grant and then under Kwesi Appiah, Egypt were able to establish a five-point lead over them after their first two matches.
After a shock defeat away in Kampala against Uganda in August, Ghana failed to capitalise as they couldn’t beat Congo at home, the Egyptians then took a major step toward the finals when Mohamed Salah settled the return clash with Uganda in Alexandria.
It was the penultimate game with Congo when Salah stepped up to score the injury time penalty that took his country to the finals.
Salah scored 71% of Egypts goals in qualification and without him they really have very little in back up to their talisman, he will surely not be at 100% by their first game and will most likely settle for a spot on the bench against Uruguay – but providing he’s back for the Russia game he may be enough to get Egypt through the group
Recent friendlies haven’t been great, in March they lost to Portugal when Ronaldo scored 2 goals in injury time to cancel out Salah’s opener, then they lost 1-0 to Greece, this was followed up with draws against Kuwait and a more respectable one with Colombia, before they were swept aside 3-0 by Belgium in their final game before the tournament, of course Salah had missed these ones due to the shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League.
WorldCupAcca The Squad:
Essam El Hadary is the Egyptian captain and at 45 years of age is set to become the oldest player to ever grace the World Cup.
Egypt have a fairly solid defence with the likes of Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr as their centre back pairing, with Fathi and Abdel-Shafy in the fullback positions.
This, plus Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny and Tarek Hamed sitting in front of them should prove to be tough to break down here, evidenced by the fact that they conceded just 4 goals en route to topping their qualifying group.
Of course in the attack all the emphasis will be on Mo Salah cutting in from the right wing but they will also need performances from Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan on the other wing and Abdallah Said in the number 10 role.
Marwan Mohsen is the only other recognised striker selected in the squad so will surely start up front but if Egypt is to get out of its group, Salah must play.
Previous tournaments have shown, players with the ability to win games on their own can take mediocre sides and lift them to new heights and that’s surely the case for Egypt here with Salah as the most in form player in Europe at the moment.
WorldCupAcca The Group:
Uruguay will almost certainly win the group.
Uruguay might be a serious dark horse to win the tournament this year. Only Brazil had a more solid performance in South American qualifying than Uruguay. Though some of the team’s stars started fading, new players have emerged for the World Cup.
Defender Diego Godin (31) and strikers Edinson Cavani (30) and Luis Suarez (30) still trouble opponents. But now youngsters like midfielders Federico Valverde (19) and Nahitan Nandez (21) have become frequent starters too.
They will be solid at the back with the likes of Godin and Gimenez anyway but the way that Oscar Tabarez sets up his teams is very much to have a solid back line making them difficult to break down first and foremost – before looking to be quick and direct in the attack and get the ball to the freescoring Suarez and Cavani.
Second place should come down to Russia vs Egypt to see whether the hosts can get out of the group and with a very old, slow back line I can see even a 60% Mohamed Salah causing them all sorts of problems.
Russia have played 19 matches since Euro 2016 and won just six (against Ghana, Romania, Hungary, New Zealand, Dinamo Moscow and South Korea). They haven’t won since October 2017, and conceded 10 goals in four friendlies against Argentina, Spain, Brazil and France.
The defence is a big weakness for Russia.
When the CSKA trio of Sergey Ignashevich and the Berezutski brothers decided to quit international football, things only got worse. After the appointment of Cherchesov, Russia started playing five at the back, but since the start of 2018 he’s lost two of the regular three centre-backs (Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya) to long-term injuries – so they had to start looking for new partnerships all over again.
Saudi Arabia are something of an unknown coming into the tournament, their first since 2006 and their 5th overall. They’ve only made it out of the group stages once, in 1994 and it’s a record likely to say in tact this time round for the lowest ranked nation at the tournament.
While Saudi Arabia are on their third coach in less than a year, the squad is built on a solid core of players. Drawn mainly from Saudi Premier League champions Al Hilal and runners-up Al Ahli, the key players know each other well, and that cohesion is a rare thing at international level.
The decision to send some players on loan such as Yahya Al Shehri, Salem Al Dawsari and Fahad Al Muwallad,to clubs in Spain in January has backfired though. Al Muwallad and Al Dawsari are the only ones who got minutes, a lone substitute appearance each, meaning they won’t be coming in with the best match conditioning.
The Saudis also have a poor record in continental tournaments in recent years, failing to advance past the group stages at the Asian Cup in 2011 and 2015.
Other issues include Juan Antonio Pizzi’s lack of preparation time with the squad; the Argentina-born coach was appointed only in November, leaving both manager and players little more than six months to work together.
WorldCupAcca Betting Tips:
World Cup Group A Fixtures / Results
|Moscow – June 14, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Yekaterinburg – June 15, 2018 5:00 pm|
|Saint Petersburg – June 19, 2018 9:00 pm|
|Rostov-on-Don – June 20, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Samara – June 25, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Volgograd – June 25, 2018 5:00 pm|
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