World Cup Preview: Groups A and B – Egypt quality and easy progress for the Iberians

The first of our previews looks at Group A (Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay) and Group B (Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Iran)...

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Group A

Ostensibly one of the least interesting groups in terms of the participating teams, ‘A’ is made notable due to the presence of hosts Russia – who, like many recent hosts, would probably not be there otherwise – and Egypt’s megastar forward Mohamed Salah.

Egypt have a pretty mediocre World Cup history, despite being one of the best teams in Africa for much of the past forty years. This is only their third Mundial, and their first since 1990, when they stank the place out with two draws, a loss and just one goal in their games against Netherlands, Ireland and England.

This time around, things could be different.

Much will depend on the fitness of Salah, but unlike Liverpool this is no one-man team and it would perhaps be a surprise if the Pharaohs failed to progress from a relatively weak group.

Uruguay are the side most likely to join them in the knockout stages, and will realistically fancy their chances of winning the group. There are some fine players in this squad, not least Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, and the team will be built around a defence that collectively makes Sergio Ramos look like Mother Teresa.

Predicted finishing order

1. Uruguay, 2. Egypt, 3. Russia, 4. Saudi Arabia

Group B

A group of two halves, ‘B’ matches a pair of Iberian heavyweights against a pair of tournament makeweights. Iran and Morocco are not terrible sides, but it would be a fairly epic shock if either of them managed to progress.

In theory, the only question is who actually wins it.

Despite Portugal being the reigning European champions, Spain look the best side in this group. They’ve left out about 20 players who would get into pretty much any other squad in the tournament, and the ones they’re bringing stand up as some of the finest players on the planet. This team will be there or thereabouts come the semi-final stage.

Portugal, as ever, are mercurial. You could see them going all the way, but equally you wouldn’t be amazed if they crashed out in the second round. Ronaldo isn’t the force he was, but by the same token he has just spearheaded Real Madrid to another Champions League title, while Bernardo Silva is one of the Premier League’s most accomplished creators.

Yet, aside from that, there isn’t much spark in this outfit. You’d expect them to make it through the group, but they may not go much further.

Predicted finishing order

1. Spain, 2. Portugal, 3. Morocco, 4. Iran

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