Russia 2018: Group A Betting Guide
- Saudi Arabia
Favourites to win Group: Uruguay at 10/11 with William Hill
Key Fixture: Russia v Egypt at Saint Petersburg on 19th June
Group A contains host nation Russia who will get the tournament underway as they take on Saudi Arabia in the opening game of this year’s World Cup. Kick off is 4pm UK time on Thursday June 14 and then we can finally look forward to over a month of action in Eastern Europe.
Favourites to win this section are Uruguay who are available at that best industry price of 10/11 with William Hill. Those are relatively long odds when compared with favourites from other groups so the bookies are suggesting that things could be quite tight here.
The Russians are second favourites in the group win market at 2/1 with 10Bet while many will see value in Egypt who are available at a best of 7/1 with Black Type. The rank outsiders here are Saudi Arabia at a top price of 50/1 with Black Type again and they may just be content to pick up a point or two over three matches.
Like most groups at Russia 2018, the crucial tie is between the second and third favourites. The odds setters look to have got it right at the top of the market and while Uruguay may not be strong enough to dominate, they should go through comfortably.
That leaves the big showdown set for Saint Petersburg on June 19 when Russia play Egypt. There is a fairly close result market for this one with Russia favourites at 42/41 with Unibet to win it while the draw follows at 49/20 with MarathonBet. It’s over to MarathonBet again in terms of victory for Egypt at 61/20 and those figures underline how tight it could be in terms of overall group qualification.
Even if the Egyptians picked up a solitary point from that fixture, they would be good value to progress although much depends on Mohamed Salah and whether he is fit enough to play a full part.
If Russia fail to win that game, the hosts would not relish needing to win when they face Uruguay in Samara in the final match of this group although once again the market for this particular game is very tight at this early stage.
Uruguay are favourites to win that match at best odds of 7/5 with William Hill followed by the draw at a top price of 117/50 with MarathonBet. A win for Russia is on offer at 13/10 with SportPesa and that is one market that we expect to change significantly as the tournament develops.
We’ve mentioned the importance of Mohamed Salah and Egypt will be desperate to get him fit and available for the start of Russia 2018. Having scored 44 goals in 52 games for his club side Liverpool last season, Salah is vital to his country’s chances of progressing and while there are positive noises from the Egyptian camp, the signs are that he may just make the bench for their opener against Uruguay.
For the Uruguayans, Luis Suarez will be a familiar face for all football fans and at the age of 31, he remains a key player for his side. With 51 goals in 98 international games, he is now the country’s leading scorer although Edinson Cavani isn’t far behind with 42 in 101.
Cavani is one of four players in this squad that have reached 100 caps for their country while Suarez and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera should also hit that mark during the tournament so Uruguay travel to the World Cup with plenty of experience.
For the host nation Russia, many of the players have been in the set up since Euro 2012 but they have been disappointing in major tournaments after being talked up at possible ‘dark horses’. Their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is one of the best stoppers in Europe and he will need to be at his best as he is set to face some of the most potent strikers in the game.
The forward line is, however, a concern for the hosts as the three main attackers have modest records and the leading scorer in this Russian squad is Fyodor Smolov who has 12 goals from 32 matches.
Completing this group are Saudi Arabia where all but three of the squad play in their domestic league. Elsewhere, Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad and Yahya Al-Shehri all play their football in Spain and should therefore be familiar to fans of La Liga.
The most dangerous player could, however, be Mohammad Al-Sahlawi who is the leading scorer in the squad with a healthy record of 28 goals in 40 games. That strike rate is maintained at club level with Al-Nassr and the other sides in this group should certainly have done their homework on Al-Sahlawi.
We think that there could be some value in this section because, while the Russians are second favourites to win it and odds on to qualify at a top price of 9/20 with MarathonBet, this side is known to disappoint at major tournaments.
The main point in their favour is the fact that they are playing on home soil. Host nations tend to raise their game at the World Cup and with a hostile crowd behind them, the Russians have a better chance of progressing.
It could all come down to that crucial fixture between Russia and Egypt and as we are not certain in regards to Mohamed Salah’s availability, we will avoid tipping the Egyptians although they could give you good value if their key striker is available.
Instead, we are going to focus on Uruguay in this section: They have the strongest squad and as you will see as we move through these previews, 10/11 is a good price on the Group Favourites.
Similarly, 7/5 is a generous price for Uruguay to beat a weaker Russian team when they meet late on and that could shorten in the lead up to kick off so we’re taking it without delay.
- Uruguay to win Group A at 10/11 with William Hill
- Uruguay v Russia: Uruguay to win at 7/5 with William Hill