Soccer World Cup Group A: Betting Preview and Predictions
Group A of the soccer World Cup traditionally includes the hosts, in this case, Russia. They are joined by the teams of Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, and Egypt.
At a first glance, the home nation and Uruguay are huge favorites to qualify for the knockout stage.
I would agree that Saudi Arabia is hardly a threat, but I’m not so sure about Egypt. The African team might have the potential to surprise.
But let’s take a look at each team and the odds. There might be some value for the taking in Group A of the soccer World Cup, and I want to make sure I do some proper analysis here.
Russia is the host of the 2018 World Cup finals, and this is always a huge advantage. For starters, the home country is always seeded first, which means weaker opponents in the group stages.
On top of that, the fans will be Russia’s 12th player during every single game, and this certainly plays a role. Another possible advantage is related to the referees. It’s hard to deny that we’ve seen many cases where they have made some controversial decisions in favor of the home nation.
Under such circumstances, it’s no surprise to see Russia priced 1.32 to qualify. I believe the price is about right, and the hosts are a massive favorite to progress. However, I don’t feel they will do more after that for a couple of reasons.
For starters, they simply don’t have the quality. As any European side, they are decent and have a solid local league that will provide the backbone of the squad. However, the current Russian team doesn’t have any world-class players.
Furthermore, in the past 20-30 years, Russia has always fallen short in World Cup finals, even when they did indeed possess some top talent. This is why I don’t expect much from them this time around, either.
It must be said that if Russia qualifies, the country will face a team from Group B, where Spain and Portugal seem certain to progress. I don’t see how the hosts can beat either of them.
This is why I believe Russia will reach the last 16 and then get eliminated.
The bookies’ favorite in this Group A is Uruguay. This is based purely on the quality of the team from South America. They have some of the best forwards in the world in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
At the back, Diego Godin is a true leader who can also score crucial goals, as we’ve seen time and time again.
This is certainly a nation that loves soccer and shouldn’t be underestimated under any circumstances. Uruguay has reached the knockout stages in the last couple of editions of the World Cup finals. They look like the favorite to do so this time around once again.
The problem is that they lack quality in midfield. This will be an issue against stronger teams. My expectations are that Uruguay will perform similarly to Russia. They should be able to get out of the group, but they will be knocked out in the first round after that.
Also, a quick look at the odds shows very low prices. Only 1.18 to qualify and 1.77 to win Group A contains no value whatsoever in my opinion. I do expect Uruguay to progress, and they might clinch the top spot, but the odds are abysmal.
Egypt has reached its first World Cup finals in almost 40 years. The country is more than happy to be in Russia but also has hopes to upset the odds.
The main reason is the form of Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool winger has scored over 44 goals this season and is one of the contenders for Ballon d’Or. It’s been a while since anyone but Messi and Ronaldo have won the award, but it seems like the Egyptian is a genuine contender.
The problem is that Salah got injured by Sergio Ramos in the Champions League finals. The whole nation of Egypt and many people from all over the globe blamed the Spaniard for the incident. This led to him responding recently, putting forward his case and claiming he did nothing wrong.
Although Salah should recover for the World Cup, there are two major questions here.
The first one is when. If he is not ready for the start, that’s bad news for Egypt, who will face Uruguay first. Without Salah, this seems like a certain loss.
The second question is if this issue will somehow affect Salah’s performance when he’s back. If the forward is not at his best, I don’t see Egypt going out of the group.
The situation is tough, and this makes it hard to predict what will happen. If Salah was healthy, I would probably see some value in the odds for Egypt to make it out of the group stages.
The country has other players that play in Europe, most notably Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Elmohamady. The rest of the squad is hardly anything special, which is the reason they need Salah so desperately.
Still, there is one more reason to believe Egypt is not doomed, and that’s the coach. Hector Cuper has loads of experience in Europe and has coached many top teams. He might be able to find a way to the knockout stages.
Saudi Arabia is the team that has the lowest rank in the World Cup finals, according to FIFA’s ratings. This is hardly a surprise, as most of the squad consists of players from the local league.
Despite attracting some foreign coaches and players in the past couple of years, the tournament is hardly comparable to the competitions in Europe and South America.
Still, Saudi Arabia signed a key deal with the Spanish FA. The best players from the country were sent on loan to teams from the top two Spanish divisions. This certainly helped improve the overall level of the squad.
The question is if Saudi Arabia could even win a point in Russia. I’m inclined to say no, as they simply don’t have the quality. There are some decent players at the back, and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi has scored 28 goals in 39 games to prove he can be lethal. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is also experienced and won Copa America with Chile in 2016.
However, I don’t think this will be enough for Saudi Arabia. Their squad is way behind the rest, so even a point would be a huge success. This is why I see no value in the odds for them to qualify or win the group.
Final Prediction and Picks
Based on all factors, I believe Uruguay and Russia will be the teams to progress from Group A. Egypt has a chance if Salah is fit from the start, and Saudi Arabia is doomed to finish last.
The big question is if there is a good bet out there. If Salah wasn’t injured, I believe the 2.50 for Egypt to qualify would’ve been decent, but I will pass that one.
However, I see one particular pick that looks good. I think Russia will be motivated to win this group and make the home fans happy.
Also, I could see Uruguay resting some key players in the last match against the hosts because facing Portugal or Spain doesn’t make much of a difference.
As a result, I believe the first place is closer than the prices suggest. The odds of 2.75 for Russia to win Group A appear a little on the generous side, so this is the stand-out bet in the group for me.