World Cup 2018 Preview – Groups A & B

Note: The tournament kicks off on 6/14, so for the last year I include games from 6/14/17 to present

Group A

The Teams

 Russia (FIFA Rank: 70th, 1-1-5 in last year)
 Saudi Arabia (FIFA Rank: 67th, 5-2-7 in last year)
 Egypt (FIFA Rank: 45th, 2-4-5 in last year)
 Uruguay (FIFA Rank: 14th, 5-2-0 in last year)

The Schedule (All times Eastern)

Russia vs Saudi Arabia – 11 AM on 6/14, Fox
Egypt vs Uruguay – 8 AM on 6/15, FS1
Russia vs Egypt – 2 PM on 6/19, Fox
Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia – 11 AM on 6/20, Fox
Uruguay vs Russia – 10 AM on 5/25, TBD (Fox or FS1)
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt – 10 AM on 5/25, TBD (Fox or FS1)

Preview/Picks

Uruguay is an easy pick to go through to the knockout stage, but after that things get a little cloudy. This is one of the weaker groups in World Cup history, with three teams outside of the FIFA Top 40 and the two lowest ranked teams in the field all in the same group. Hosts Russia will be the favorite in the first game of the Cup against Saudi Arabia on 6/14 (although I see a draw likely), but the eventual question of who will advance to the round of 16 is likely to be decided on 6/19 as the hosts take on Egypt. The Pharaohs would be an easy pick to advance through normally, but given the competition is taking place in Russia and star midfielder Mohamed Elneny not at full strength after an injury in the Champion’s League. Russia hasn’t won a match since they faced New Zealand on 6/17/2017, and I see their poor form continuing, drawing twice and losing to Uruguay, leading Egypt advancing with 4 points.

 Uruguay – 9 points
 Egypt – 4 points
 Russia – 2 points
 Saudi Arabia – 1 point

Group B

The Teams

 Portugal (FIFA Rank: 4th, 9-3-2 in last year)
 Spain (FIFA Rank: 10th, 6-2-0 in last year)
 Morocco (FIFA Rank: 41st, 14-3-0 in last year)
 Iran (FIFA Rank: 37th, 4-2-2 in last year)

The Schedule (All times Eastern)

Morocco vs Iran – 11 AM on 6/15, Fox
Portugal vs Spain – 2 PM on 6/15, Fox
Portugal vs Morocco – 8 AM on 6/20, FS1
Iran vs Spain – 2 PM on 6/20, Fox
Iran vs Portugal – 2 PM on 6/25, TBD (Fox or FS1)
Spain vs Morocco – 2 PM on 6/25, TBD (Fox or FS1)

Preview/Picks

We’ve got a rivalry on the Iberian Peninsula as #4 in the world Portugal drew neighbor Spain in what will be one of the best games of the group stage on June 15th, the two sides haven’t met since the Euro 2012 semis where Spain advanced on penalties. Spain and Protugal are seemingly on another level from the rest of the group as both Iran and Morocco are longshots to advance. Iran made the tournament back in 2014, but Morocco was more of a surprise as they went on a tear in Cup qualifying. Morocco has not lost a game since Day 1 of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying in a 1-0 loss to Cameroon over a year ago. Portugal, winners of the Euro Cup 2016, were knocked out of the Confederations Cup in a semifinal loss to Chile and could only muster a draw with Tunisia on 5/28. That game on 6/20 will be must watch and one of the biggest opportunities for an upset this tournament.

 Spain – 7 points
 Portugal – 5 points
 Morocco – 4 points
 Iran – 0 points

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