Uruguay is favored, and another country could keep the host Russians from advancing

Barcelona star Luis Suarez is back to lead Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup, which begins June 14, 2018, in Russia.
Barcelona star Luis Suarez is back to lead Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup, which begins June 14, 2018, in Russia. Associated Press

More from the series

World Cup group previews

Miami Herald soccer writer Michelle Kaufman breaks down each group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and selects her top two teams that will advance out of the group stage.

Expand All

The 2018 World Cup opens in less than a month, on June 14, in Moscow. Here is what we can expect from Group A.

Britain Soccer Premier League.JPG
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match against Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield, Liverpool. England, Sunday, May 13, 2018. Dave Thompson PA via AP

Egypt: Back in the World Cup for the first time since 1990. The Pharaohs are led by Liverpool standout Mohamed “Mo” Salah, who just set an English Premier League record with 32 goals in a 38-game season. But he can’t win alone. He needs help from Mohamed El Neny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa) and Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City).

Russian fans with national flags at a 2016 UEFA European Championship Group Stage football match between Russia and Slovakia at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France. Alexander Demianchuk TASS/Abaca Press/TNS

Russia: World Cup host nations have had mixed results through the years. South Korea surprised in 2002. South Africa lost in the group stage in 2010. Brazil reached the semis in 2014, but then was humiliated 7-1 by Germany. It remains to be seen how Russia, one of the weaker teams in the tournament, will handle the pressure. The Russians were bounced in the group stage at Euro 2016 and the 2017 Confederations Cup. Watch for forwards Fyodor Smolov and Aleksander Kokorin.

Soccer WCup Group A Saudi Arabia.JPG
In this Thursday, March 23, 2017, file photo, Saudi Arabia soccer teammates celebrate their 3-0 win in their World Cup qualifiers soccer match against Thailand at Rajamangala national stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. Sakchai Lalit AP

Saudi Arabia: The Saudi team is made up of domestic league players, and their inexperience will be a big disadvantage. Saudi Arabia hasn’t gotten past the group round since 1994, and it is unlikely that will change this summer. Watch for Al-Nassr forward Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, who has scored 28 goals in 36 national team appearances.

Soccer WCup Group A Uruguay(2).JPG
In this 2017 photo, Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring against Bolivia during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Montevideo, Uruguay. Cavani has been linked to a move from Paris Saint Germain to Inter Miami. Matilde Campodonico AP

Uruguay: Any team that qualifies second out of South America is dangerous. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are back and have scored 92 international goals between them. Among the new stars are Gaston Pereiro and Rodrigo Betancur, the 20-year-old Juventus midfielder. Atletico Madrid duo Jose Gimenez and captain Diego Godin anchor the back line.

PREDICTION: Uruguay wins the group; Egypt advances as the second-place team.