THIS group is first only in the alphabetical sense – by most other measures, it could feasibly be considered the worst at the World Cup.
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