- Saudi Arabia
WorldCupAcca Confirmed Squad:
Keeper: M. Campana, F. Muslera, M. Silva
Defence: M. Caceres, S. Coates, JM. Gimenez, D. Godin, M. Pereira, G. Silva. G. Varela
Midfield: G. De Arrascaeta, R. Bentancur, D. Laxalt, N. Nandez, C. Rodriguez, C. Sanchez, L. Torreira, M. Vecino, J. Urretaviscaya
Forward: E. Cavani, M. Gomez, L. Suarez, C. Stuani
Winners of the first ever World Cup in 1930 and then again in 1950, Uruguay are very much a dark horse coming into Russia.
They will have an easy group that should see them comfortably into the knockout stages.
This is their 13th appearance in the finals, they have previously made the semi final stages on five occasions, most recently in 2010 – they have every chance of getting to this stage once again in Russia, the Round of 16 should see them facing an average Portuguese side and then France in the quarters.
Only Brazil had a more solid performance in South American qualifying than Uruguay, they took 31 points from their 18 games, scoring 32 in the process and conceding 20 as the finished ahead of the likes of Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Chile.
Other than a 2-1 loss to Austria towards the end of 2017, friendly results have been decent coming into the tournament, however the quality of opposition hasn’t been very good – wins over Czech Republic, Wales and Uzbekistan, saw the Uruguayans score 6 and concede 0 but it will be a serious step up in competition once they advance from the group stages.
WorldCupAcca The Squad:
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.
Fernando Muslera is a very competent keeper and will start in goal, winning his 100th cap in the process.
Former Manchester United defender Guillermo Varela is likely to be starting at right back, he failed to make an impact in England or with his other loan spells in Europe but having returned to Penarol is in much better form.
Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, both of Atletico Madrid will start in the heart of the defence – both make up one of the best defencive partnerships at both club and country, Martin Caceres, while generally a centre back can play on both flanks and will start on the left hand side.
The Uruguay midfield has a more youthful presence nowadays which is a bonus for their style of play, Nahitan Nandez and Matias Vecino will start centrally, with Rodrigo Bentancur on the right and Giorgian De Arrascaeta on the left – they’ll still have more experienced players such as Carlos Sanchez and Cristian Rodriguez in reserve as well.
Arguably the best strike partnership in international football, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are both fantastic players in their own right but it is their work rate off the ball that is a particular blessing for Uruguay and it will set the pace for the team as a whole.
WorldCupAcca The Group:
Uruguay will almost certainly win the group.
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.
Egypts hopes almost come entirely down to Mo Salah, he will certainly not be at 100% and will probably have to be on the bench for the opening game against Uruguay but that’s not a game the Egyptians will expect to win anyway.
Salah scored 71% of the Pharaohs goals in qualifying, including the 95th minute penalty that sent his country to their first finals since 1990 but if the Liverpool star isn’t fit or his opponents find a way to nullify him, Egypt have no real plan B.
Despite this weakness they have a fairly solid defence, conceding just 4 goals en route to topping their group and with Mohammed Elneny and Tarek Hamed sitting in front of the defence they’ll be tough to break down.
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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