World Cup Group A & B Round One Matches Preview

Group A

Thursday June 14th 4pm - Russia v Saudi Arabia 

How will the hosts of this year's World Cup fare? A favourable looking opening match but the general feeling is that they will struggle to even get out of the group. That feeling is even shared in Russia where some are saying it's the worst team they've ever had! It's an ageing squad with a questionable manager which is extremely baffling and begs the question what they have done to prepare for this tournamnet in the past 8 years. 

Opponents Saudi Arabia have played 9 friendly games since February winning against Moldova, Algeria & Greece. More recently, they lost to Italy, Peru & Germany but look like they will be in good shape to come away with something from their opening game. A number of Saudi players joined La Liga clubs at the beginning of last season in a deal but most of them got little game time. Al Shehri and Al Dawsari are two of those players and are key players. Although these players have played little club football, they've been playing with high quality players in top setups and come up against an old team who all play in the Russian league. 

Betting Tips: Both Teams To Score @ 6/4 / Saudi Arabia Asian Handicap +1 @ 6/5

Friday June 15th 1pm - Egypt v Uruguay 

The other game from Round One of Group A takes place the following day as Egypt take on Uruguay. Egypt are likely to be without Mo Salah as he recovers from the injury he picked up in the Champions League Final. Elneny is a key player in midfield and Premier League fans will also be familiar with defenders Hegazi & Gabr of West Brom. There's excitement surrounding the 23-year-old attacking midfielder Trézéguet who had a good season in Turkey scoring 13 goals for Kasimpasa as they finished 8th. Egypt will sit back and be defensive as is coach's Hector Cúper's tactical preference. They had 4 shots on target in their two warm-up games!

Uruguay have firepower in abundance with Cavani & Suarez up front. Both are entering the twilight years of their career but can still turn on the magic. Cavani enjoyed a 40+ goal season and while Suarez appeared to struggle at times for Barcelona, he scored 25 goals in La Liga. Vecino & Torreira look to provide an extra dimension to the midfield comapred to past players and the Atlético Madrid defensive duo of Godín & Giménez combine at national level to provide a solid central pairing. 

Betting Tips: Uruguay -1 Asian Handicap @ 11/10 / Suarez To Score 2+ Goals @ 6/1

Group B

4pm - Morocco v Iran

Two sides who kept clean sheets for fun in their respective qualifying stages. Morocco scored 11 goals and conceded 0 in their group which included Ivory Coast. Iran kept a clean sheet for 9 straight games as they marched towards Russia. Belhanda & El Kaabi provide the creativity and goal threat for Morocco. You have to go back to 18 games to the last time Morocco lost a game and they'll be confident going into this one. 

Iran are a team big on organisation under manager Carlos Queiroz. Their main goal threat is 23-year-old stiker Sardar Azmoun who plays his club football in Russia at Rubin Kazan. He has spent 6 years in Russia in total so will feel right at home. He scored 11 goals in qualification and has bagged 9 more goals in friendlies in the past two years. 

Betting Tips: Both Teams To Score @ 11/8

7pm - Portugal v Spain 

The Iberian derby rounds things up on Friday. The feeling in Portugal is that it's a good time to face an ageing Spanish side but Spain seem to have gathered some momentum and ambitions remain high. Certainly Portugal have exciting new blood in the likes of Guedes, Bruno Fernandes & Bernado Silva and look to have built on the foundations of their surprise Euro 2016 triumph in France. 

Spain have left out some big names but have the look of a well balanced squad with various options to come off the bench to mix things up should they be required. We all know about their defensive & midfield capabilities and the wealth of experience & winners they posses. They are capable of controlling a game and in David Silva, Isco et. al they can unlock any defence. It would be interesting to see how the legs would cope with a high tempo game or pressing tactics. 

Betting Tips: Both Teams To Score @ 11/10 / Result Draw @ 12/5

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