Group A preview
Group A will see hosts Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all go head to head in one of the weaker groups across the competition.
Russia will be hoping that the home advantage makes a difference as they enter the World Cup finals as the lowest ranked team in the competition although Saudi Arabia sit just three places above them at 67th.
Uruguay are the obvious favourites as the only team in the group that are ranked within the top 32 teams in the world currently and with names like Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Godin, Le Celeste will mean business.
Egypt will be hoping to be a dark horse in the competition and the Pharaohs will be boosted by the recent announcement by Mohamed Salah that he will be fit for their first encounter against Uruguay on Friday.
Egypt will be the obvious contenders for second place, but with players like Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Elmohamady also in the mix, do not rule them out to give Uruguay an early scare in the first match.
Saudi Arabia will be hoping that their lack of attention coming into the World Cup will be to their advantage as they will hope to be a surprise package and they will have the perfect platform to do so when they face Russia in the opening fixture of the tournament.
The top two in the group should be Uruguay and Egypt barring any upsets, but the position each time find themselves win will be in direct relation to which of their star players performs the best.
Suarez and Cavani pose a deadly threat in all aspects of play with Cavani’s physicality and brute forced balanced out by Suarez’s finesse and agility.
In terms of Egypt, Salah has already captured the world’s attention with his performances for Liverpool and if his five goals in six matches during the qualifying stages is anything to go by, the midfielder means business.
One thing is certain and that is Russia and Saudi Arabia should provide a tight opening affair on Thursday while Friday will see the coming together of two of the top goal scoring prospects in the competition in a showdown that will set the tone for the remainder of the group stages.
Group A Fixtures:
Thursday June 14 – Russia vs Saudi Arabia, 15h00 (GMT), Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.
Friday June 15 – Egypt vs Uruguay, 12:00 (GMT), Ekaterinburg Arena
Tuesday June 19 – Russia vs Egypt, 18:00 (GMT), Spartak Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Wednesday June 20 – Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia, 15:00 (GMT), Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
Monday June 25 – Saudi Arabia vs Egypt, 14:00 (GMT), Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Monday June 25 – Uruguay vs Russia, 14:00 (GMT), Samara Arena, Samara