THIS group is first only in the alphabetical sense – by most other measures, it could feasibly be considered the worst at the World Cup.
That’s because, on the surface, it looks to be the most favourable group going around.
Hosts Russia enter the World Cup ranked 66th in the world, Saudi Arabia are 70th – and there is no one competing in June and July who are below them in the world rankings.
It’s a far cry from the heights of 2008, when Russia launched their hosting bid and had reached the semi-finals of the European Championships.
They do, however, have the advantage of playing on home soil – which is why they’re considered better chances than Group A rivals Egypt of springing an upset.
But it remains to be seen whether they’ll follow the semi-final path of South Korea in 2002, or bomb out in the group stages like South Africa in 2010.
Saudi Arabia aren’t expected to present too many dangers following a preparation beset with controversy and axed coaches, but Egypt has some serious star power and can’t be discounted.
This match could well decide who tops group A and pits one of the world’s hottest stars, in Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, against the star-studded group favourites. Uruguay’s stable of ageing stars, in 30-year-old strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez and 31-year-old defensive rock Diego Godin, are still a formidable force on the world stage.
Uruguay vs Egypt
June 15, 10pm