Well! It’s that time every 4 years where we have a delightful amount of football on free-to-air TV every-day! My wife will hate it, but I am loving the prospect!
As usual, we are doing our bit, with previews with a few antepost prices, and tips for each round of games. This looks to be one of the most competitive finals with numerous teams in good form and capable of winning it.
This is the first of my 8 group previews – I hope to have them all up by Sunday, and my accumulator picks for the group stages just after that.
Anyway – without further delay – Group A:
Uruguay have a quality setup. Not only do they have Suarez and Cavani up-front, they have a midfield containing three players to impress in Italy this season – in Torreira, Bentacur and Vecino, and a back four that contains Godin, Caceres and Gimenez. Fernando Muslera should be their starting keeper, who is another cracking player.
I can’t see Saudi Arabia giving them any issues, nor Russia really. The unknown of Egypt is a worry for them, but quite frankly I think they will win all three games, which is currently 4/1! However, I see the value at Over 6.5 Points @ 13/10
Russia have an ageing team, and very few up and coming youngsters, with Alexandr Golovin one of the very few. Looking through their team, there is a distinct lack of pace – not helped by the emission of Oleg Shatov, who to be fair had a poor season after injury, and Alexandr Kokorin, who scored 19 goals in 35 games for Zenit in League and Cup – but again, he tore knee ligaments in March so isn’t fully fit yet.
However, this time they have left out numerous of the ageing golden oldies I was referring to, and led by Fedor Smolov – could do well. Denis Cheryshev is a favourite of mine, and add in experienced player like Alan Dzagoev and Artem Dyzuba and some of the form players like Anton Miranchuk and Erokhin and you have a solid team.
Mario Fernandes and Igor Smolnikov are two key defenders, and although Igor Akinfeev had a mare 4 years ago, he’s an experienced keeper.
I must admit I had my doubts about Russia, but this squad has changed my mind a little.
Egypt could struggle if Mo Salah isn’t fully fit, but even without him – they have a dangerous enough squad to cause Russia problems. Mahmoud Hassan, commonly known as Trezeguet – is one to watch, while the likes of Elneny, Ramadan Sobhi and Mahmoud Kahraba – who has scored 20 goals in his last 44 games, are very much dangers.
My worry is their back four – and although there are a couple of very experienced players in there, will they be able to handle a quality of football much higher than what they are used to? Most are currently playing Egyptian football, or lower leagues around the world.
They have a shot at qualifying, but the odds are against them – especially if Salah isn’t fully fit. I think they will beat Saudi Arabia, but struggle against Uruguay and Russia. Either way, I will enjoy watching them!
Very little expected of them apart from 3 losses. Very unknown squad, but against three teams like Russia, Egypt and Uruguay and given the standard of their players – I think 0 points is a good bet @ 7/4.
Group Forecast: 1: Uruguay / 2: Russia @ 2/1
Excellent Value: Uruguay Over 6.5 Points @ 13/10
High Value: Saudi Arabia 0 Points @ 7/4
Banker: Uruguay Group Winner @ 4/5