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