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2018 FIFA World Cup Group A & Group B

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FIFA World Cup Group A Teams

 

Uruguay:

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Unquestionably the favorite to advance from Group A, Uruguay have talent all over the pitch and, importantly, have a rock solid pairing in the heart of defense with Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, who play together at club level with Atletico Madrid, and a pair of forwards who are among the best in the world in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. 

In past years Uruguay relied on defensive stability and played to get the ball to its forwards as quick as possible but recently have started to play through midfield more due to the emergence of some excellent ball playing players such as Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Betancour and others who have shown they are more than just the destroyers that have been common among the Uruguay sides since 2010. 

Best player:
Luis Suarez. The player who can create and score out of nothing. He is a controversial character but on the pitch he is an extremely hard worker and is capable of conjuring moments of magic that can turn a game on its head. Players like Suarez are capable of carrying their team deep in these types of tournaments.
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Breakout star: 
Matias Vecino. Great player for Inter in Serie A and a player who is extremely well rounded. He can defend, score and create and will help Uruguay control games a bit more than they have in past tournaments.

Egypt: 
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Most people are predicting Egypt to compete with Russia for second spot in Group A. While Russia may have a little bit more talent throughout the squad Egypt have one of the best players in the group if not the tournament itself. Mohammed Salah has been an absolute sensation for Liverpool and helped carry them to the Champions League final this season. Unfortunately for Salah and Egypt he was injured in the first half but the good news is that all signs point to him being available for the tournament right from the start. 
Egypt set themselves up to be difficult to break down with a 4-2-3-1 and attack when the opportunity arises. In central defense they are solid with two West Brom centerbacks Ali Gabr and Ahmed Hegazi who are both tall defenders who can be relied upon when under pressure. Arsenal midfielder Mohammed Elneny is the biggest name in midfield but he has endured a disappointing season and it will be interesting to see if his performances for Egypt are affected by this. There is a player nicknamed Trezeguet because he looks somewhat like David Trezeguet, I don't know anything about him as a player but I feel like that deserved a mention. 

In the end most of Egypt's success will come down to a solid defensive foundation and hopes that their star man, Mohammed Salah, will be able to inject the pace and goal scoring prowess that the side will need to advance. 

Best player:
Mohammed Salah. One of the best players at the tournament who offers an astounding turn of pace that can leave defenders in his wake and is devastating on the counter. Salah offers goal scoring ability few others have demonstrated this season, incredible dribbling and pure speed. He will be someone who will draw every eye when he is on the ball.
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Breakout star:
Abdallah El-Said. He isn't young but is pretty unknown on the world stage due to him playing in Egypt for all of his career. He is the man who can pull the strings and operates as a number 10 for Egypt. Look for him to be the man supplying the ball to Egypt's danger man. 

Russia:
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The home nation has, unsurprisingly, benefited from an easy draw and will have hopes of reaching the knockout stages.   They have had extremely bad luck with injuries and have lost two players likely to have started in defense if they were fit as well as their best player in Alexander Kokorin. Stanislav Cherchesov has installed a 3-5-2 in the Russian national team due to the fact that a large number of clubs in the Russian Premier League utilize the system. There are a surprisingly large amount of spots left up for grabs in the team and the starting XI for Russia will be anybody's guess. 

While Russia have some serious question marks they do have some talented players. In goal the long serving Igor Akinfeev will get the start and while he has had an up and down international career he can generally be relied on to be a safe set of hands. Russia's strongest area, in my opinion, is in midfield. Youngster Alexander Golovin has been hugely impressive and has become a key member of the Russian midfield while the Russian manager also has the likes of creative players such as Alan Dzagoev and Alexey Miranchuk to call upon. Up top Fyodor Smolov will almost certainly start and while he has been a good goal scorer at club level he has yet to reach the same heights with the national team. 

Best player: 
Alexey Miranchuk. An attacking midfielder, who can also play as a forward, will likely play behind Smolov. He's only 22 but is a very talented player going forward and can create and score in equal measure. He's also got a twin brother in the squad who plays in midfield, Anton Miranchuk. 
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Breakout Star: 
Alexander Golovin. Another 22 year old, he has become a key piece of the Russian midfield and is one of the few players who will certainly have a starting spot in the squad. There has been Premier League interest in him from the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea and a good performance at the World Cup could see more clubs get involved.

Saudi Arabia: 

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I'm going to be honest, I know absolutely nothing about the Saudi team and therefore I am going to just regurgitate some stuff I have read online. Portugese manager Juan Antonio Pizzi took over in 2017 from former manager Brett Van Marwijk who is now the manager of Australia. Saudi Arabia will likely play a 4-2-3-1 which will likely focus on keeping compact while working the ball up to the strength of their team which is their attacking midfielders. In defense the two starting central defenders have the same name, Omar Hawsawi, which is weird. One is old and one isn't but both seem to be solid players, particularly the younger of the two. 

The talent in the Saudi squad lies with Salem al-Dawsari, Yahya al-Shehri and Fahad al-Muwallad in attacking midfield. All three spent time on loan in La Liga in the second half of the season but only Salem al-Dawsari played and he only started two matches. Unfortunately, the team lacks a solid goal scoring option to finish of the chances that the trio of attacking midfielders creates. Whether that trio can perform to the level they did in qualification will go a long way to determining Saudi Arabia's World Cup success.

Best player: 
Salem al-Dawsari. He will start on the left of the three attacking midfielders. He is a great dribbler who can go by defenders and causes chaos in defense. His ability to beat defenders will be a great asset to a team that might struggle to get forward with much consistency. 
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Breakout star:
Fahad al-Muwallad. He'll start on the right of the three attacking midfielders. He's quicker than Salem al-Dawsari and also likes to dribble at defenders and is direct and attack minded. He's the man who is most likely to spring Saudi counter attacks and should be an exciting player to watch.

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Spain:

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The Spanish dominance through Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 was one of the dominating international eras in the sport. However, it came crashing down at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when Spain were unable to advance past the group stage which sent shock waves across the football world. Former manager Vincente Del Bosque left as manager after Euro 2016 and Julen Lopetegui took over which was a move met with skepticism by many. Instead of the end of a Golden Era that many expected, Lopetegui simply filled the holes with a new wave of extremely talented player while retaining the core of team that won so much both internationally and at club level.

The old spine of the team remains with the like of Sergio Ramos and Gerald Pique in the center of defense. Dani Carvahal and Jordi Alba will start at fullback. The midfield once again remains the shining example of Spanish mastery. Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and David Silva continue to be lead a Spanish midfield which has conquered all before them. They have replaced some loses with a new wave of extremely talented players such as Isco, Saúl Ñíguez and Marco Asensio. The forward position continues to be a problem area for Spain and is something that they have failed to address since the loss of David Villa and, to a lesser extent, Fernando Torres. Diego Costa is likely to be the man to lead the line but he has struggled to really mesh with the passing style that Spain employs.

Star player:

Isco. This may come as a surprise to many but Isco has become a player that has really taken to the national team perfectly. He had an excellent qualification campaign with Spain and has had impressive performances on almost every appearance in the Lopetegui era. He’s a new star in the Spanish national team but maybe the most important to their success this summer.

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Breakout star:

Iago Aspas. It’s impossible to choose a breakout star in a team full of superstars. I’ll go for Aspas as he has 4 goals in 9 caps and is someone who Spain could turn to if Diego Costa fails to perform early on. Aspas offers the same tenacity as Costa but fits a bit more in the style that Spain play. After a miserable move to Liverpool he has become a genuine star at Celta Vigo.

Morocco:

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Morocco returns to the World Cup after a 20 year absence with Frenchman Hervé Renard the man guiding the side through qualification. Morocco have the unenviable task of trying to beat either Spain or Portugal to the second spot in Group B and advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. Renard will hope that his 4-2-3-1 formation can lead the way to an improbable upset and knock off one of Europe’s major powers.

Medhi Benatia leads a back line that did a fine job in qualifying despite having a natural central midfielder as his partner in central defense and Real Madrid right back Achraf Hakimi at left back. The strength of Morocco is in it’s midfield. Mbark Boussoufa and Younès Belhanda are players who are excellent in retaining possession and creating opportunities for the forward players. While those two players are excellent playmakers in their own right the real gem of the Morocco team is Hakim Ziyech. Ziyech is arguably one of the finest players in the Dutch Eredivise with Ajax and makes takes the team to another level. Khalid Boutaïb is the lone man up front and is a player who can finish off the chances created by the players behind him. He links up well with the midfield and helps Morocco break forward when the opportunity presents itself.

Star player:

Hakim Ziyech. A special player who, at 25 years old, surely won’t be in the Netherlands for much longer. With a good World Cup he could earn a move to one of the big leagues in Europe, excellent on the ball and with deadly accuracy from freekicks Ziyech drives the Morocco team.

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Breakout star:

Achraf Hakimi. The young Real Madrid player has played on the left behind Ziyech and the two have created a very good partnership on the flank. A good defender he really shines going forward and the two players combine well and can overwhelm opponents if not given enough respect.

 

Portugal:

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The champions of Euro 2016 look to become the World Champions for the first time but first face the task of advancing from Group B which contains another world power, their Iberian rival, Spain. Portugal has a lot in common with their rivals, for decades they have had tremendous talent throughout the national side only to be denied tasting glory on the international stage which was a calling card of Spain until their Euro 2008 victory, Portugal will be hoping their Euro 2016 victory is the start of their era of dominance on the world stage.

Portugal have a squad littered with talented but also have an achilles heel that may be their down fall. In goal Rui Patricio, now with Napoli, is an excellent goalkeeper who will be likely be busy throughout the tournament. Patricio’s talent will be sorely needed due to the main weakness of the Portuguese team, central defense. Pepe is the guaranteed starter in the heart of defense but he isn’t getting any younger and now plays in Turkey. The real problem is the player who will partner him and that is likely to be Bruno Alves. Alves is 36 and is coming off a very poor season with Rangers in the Scottish Premier League. The fullbacks, Cedric Soares and Raphael Guerreiro, are talented players who are sound defensively and very good at getting forward. Guerreiro is a fantastic free kick taker and an excellent crosser of the ball.

Portugal are extremely talented in midfield and up top. Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho will likely start in the center of midfield. Carvalho is an exciting player who can break up play, dribble past players and spread the ball around. Moutinho is a veteran of the Portuguese side who is player who can control the midfield and tempo of the game, Moutinho is an excellent passer of the ball and is always available to receive a pass. Moutinho is the player who can pick a pass to cut open an opposing defense. Portugal’s history of talent on the wings continues with Bernardo Silva and Joao Mario. Silva, with Manchester City, is an incredible talent who is a great dribbler and has great ball control. He can take on defenders, carry the ball through midfield and has an eye for goal. Portugal have maybe the best forward talent in their history. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best players in the history of the sport, leads the line next to André Silva. Ronaldo is a legend and his finishing ability and pure presence gives Portugal a chance in every match. André Silva fills a void that has always plagued the Portuguese national team and that is a genuine number nine up top. Silva can hold the ball up and score with a consistency that has always eluded the Portuguese national team. He struggled at AC Milan in his first season but his performances in a Portugal shirt have remained steady and a key part of qualification.

 

Star Player:

Cristiano Ronaldo. What remains to be said about Cristiano Ronaldo? The man has won everything at club level and is truly a legend in the soccer world, he’s won three Champions League trophies in a row. Ronaldo has moved up further forward up the field as he has grown older and he offers a clinical talent that can take advantage of the creative force behind him. Ronaldo is Portugal and he will certainly be key to their success once again this summer.  

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Breakout Player:

Bruno Fernandes. Not likely to start the tournament for Portugal but a player who has shown his class in Italy with Udinese and Sampdoria and has returned to Sporting Lisbon. He can play in midfield or on the wing and has shined for Lisbon upon his return.

 

Iran:

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Former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz leads Iran to their second success World Cup which is no small achievement. In 2014 Iran were a completely destructive force who hoped to keep their opponents at bay and to capitalize on their mistakes. This time around Iran have embraced their attacking talent and promise to be much more positive in Russia. Like Portugal, Iran have some problems in central defense. They have one dependable central defender in Morteza Pouraliganji but his partner is still a mystery, the fullbacks are much more settled and should prove to be dependable options for Queiroz.

Iran’s strength is in it’s front three with the likes of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi. There is also a lot of decent options on the bench in the attacking areas of the team which is uncommon for a team that was so defensive four years ago. Azmoun is in great form and is the kind of clinical finisher that can make the difference in tight games. Iran’s biggest problem might be that their Iran based players are coming off an offseason and are not in game shape, Queiroz will need an extensive training camp to get the players ready for the World Cup.

Star Player:

Alireza Jahanbakhsh. AZ Alkmaar striker Jahanbakhsh was the top scorer in the Dutch Eredevisie this season and became the first Asian player to be the top scorer in a major European league. He hasn’t yet demonstrated that scoring ability for Iran but he is in excellent form and he could become a national hero with a great tournament this summer.

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Breakout Player:

Mehdi Taremi. A player who can create for the likes of Jahanbakhsh and Azmoun. His ability on the ball and off the dribble offers another dimension to this Iraq side.

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These two groups couldn't be any more different!

Group A should be a walkover for Uruguay.

Whereas group B has 3 potentially very competitive teams.

Isn't the opening game of the tournament Russia Vs Saudia Arabia? Oil Vs Oil? Corrupt dictatorship Vs corrupt dictatorship?

Interesting how that was randomly drawn out.

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2 hours ago, texans_uk said:

These two groups couldn't be any more different!

Group A should be a walkover for Uruguay.

Whereas group B has 3 potentially very competitive teams.

Isn't the opening game of the tournament Russia Vs Saudia Arabia? Oil Vs Oil? Corrupt dictatorship Vs corrupt dictatorship?

Interesting how that was randomly drawn out.

Yup, that's the opening match. I'm guessing they picked it because it was the easiest match for Russia. Definitely some strong parallels haha.

Who's everyone got advancing? In Group A I've got Uruguay and Egypt although I could see Russia getting some really sketchy calls to advance. 

In Group B, Spain and Portugal are too good to bet against. Although Morocco and Iran could spring some surprises. 

 

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1 hour ago, LeeEvans said:

Who's everyone got advancing? In Group A I've got Uruguay and Egypt although I could see Russia getting some really sketchy calls to advance. 

All depends on the health of Salah IMO. If he's fit they beat Russia with ease. Russia are a pretty awful side and I'm confident wouldn't have qualified for the tournament if they weren't hosts.

 

1 hour ago, LeeEvans said:

In Group B, Spain and Portugal are too good to bet against. Although Morocco and Iran could spring some surprises. 

Portugal are a horrible side to watch. They are the worst European champions side since Greece. Even with Ronaldo their play is pedestrian. Pepe, Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves are past it, they were fortune to have a pretty easy ride in the qualifiers.They will be relying heavily on a handful of players to get them through.

They should be able to see off Morocco and Iran, although Morocco did knock out the Ivory Coast and Iran picked up 4 points from South Korea in qualification.

 

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1 hour ago, texans_uk said:

All depends on the health of Salah IMO. If he's fit they beat Russia with ease. Russia are a pretty awful side and I'm confident wouldn't have qualified for the tournament if they weren't hosts.

 

Portugal are a horrible side to watch. They are the worst European champions side since Greece. Even with Ronaldo their play is pedestrian. Pepe, Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves are past it, they were fortune to have a pretty easy ride in the qualifiers.They will be relying heavily on a handful of players to get them through.

They should be able to see off Morocco and Iran, although Morocco did knock out the Ivory Coast and Iran picked up 4 points from South Korea in qualification.

 

Pretty much agree on all points. Russia are dire and they are dealing with a lot of injuries. Defensively they are poor and they don't offer too much of a threat going forward. Egypt aren't a particularly strong side but I think they're better than Russia. 

Portugal are a little bit better than their Euro 2016 but the center of defense is awful. Andre Silva has made a big difference though and he and Ronaldo are good up top. 

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8 hours ago, texans_uk said:

These two groups couldn't be any more different!

Group A should be a walkover for Uruguay.

Whereas group B has 3 potentially very competitive teams.

Isn't the opening game of the tournament Russia Vs Saudia Arabia? Oil Vs Oil? Corrupt dictatorship Vs corrupt dictatorship?

Interesting how that was randomly drawn out.

I'd prefer gas vs oil.

Underwhelming game. Sasha Goryunov (UK's Russian football expert) says this is the worst Russian side in their history :D

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Isco as Spain's star player? Interesting one. Would have David Silva as their star man, I think. 

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2 hours ago, Hunter2_1 said:

Isco as Spain's star player? Interesting one. Would have David Silva as their star man, I think. 

Yeah it felt weird writing but I'm sticking with it. Silva is incredible and, really, so is the rest of the squad. Isco has been great for Spain and I think offers them some dynamism that is maybe lacking from some of the other players in the squad. You definitely can't go wrong with saying Silva is the star player though. 

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2 hours ago, Hunter2_1 said:

I'd prefer gas vs oil.

Underwhelming game. Sasha Goryunov (UK's Russian football expert) says this is the worst Russian side in their history :D

And they've had some absolute rotters recently. I saw them live at Euro 2016 against Slovakia and they were trash.

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19 minutes ago, texans_uk said:

And they've had some absolute rotters recently. I saw them live at Euro 2016 against Slovakia and they were trash.

And they honestly haven't gotten any better. They were shambolic at the Euros. 

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8 hours ago, texans_uk said:

All depends on the health of Salah IMO. If he's fit they beat Russia with ease. Russia are a pretty awful side and I'm confident wouldn't have qualified for the tournament if they weren't hosts.

The last I heard was that the thinking was he might be available for their last group game based on the timeline given by the Egyptian team doctors.  Has that changed?

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7 hours ago, drd23 said:

The last I heard was that the thinking was he might be available for their last group game based on the timeline given by the Egyptian team doctors.  Has that changed?

It's Egypt, if they're desperate I can imagine he'll play before then.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, texans_uk said:

And they've had some absolute rotters recently. I saw them live at Euro 2016 against Slovakia and they were trash.

1 shot on target in 3 games during this warmup period, apparently. I didn't think they were that bad. Dzagoev has some creativity...er....that's about it. Drew against us, didn't they xD Mind you, that's not saying much.

 

Edited by Hunter2_1

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5 minutes ago, Hunter2_1 said:

1 shot on target in 3 games during this warmup period, apparently. I didn't think they were that bad. Dzagoev has some creativity...er....that's about it. Drew against us, didn't they xD Mind you, that's not saying much.

 

Russia Vs Saudia Arabia is definitely the most corrupt and possibly the worst quality opening matchup of all time.

2014 - Brazil 3-1 Croatia

2010 - South Africa 1-1 Mexico

2006 - Germany 4-2 Costa Rica

2002 - France 0-1 Senegal

1998 - Brazil 2-1 Scotland

1994 - Germany 1-0 Bolivia

1990 - Argentina 0-1 Cameroon

Etc.

In fact I hate that they moved away from the defending champions opening the tournament, stupid Sepp Blatter.

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