World Cup 2018 Fantasy Football - Group A Preview & Tips

1:14pm Jun 10 2018

Injured Mo Salah gives Egypt hope ahead of World Cup Group A opener against Uruguay

Group A is the most open and unpredictable of the World Cup, featuring no team inside the top 15 FIFA ranked teams: Russia and Saudi Arabia have the lowest rankings of all teams qualified for the FIFA World Cup, at 66 and 67 respectively.

However, the openness of the group means that it should not be overlooked and it features a trio of talented strikers who have dominated at a domestic level this season.

Russia (66)

The hosts Russia have been handed a rather favourable draw (surprise, surprise!), with the advantage of being placed in pot A.

Given their FIFA ranking, you wouldn’t expect them to progress out of their group, but they are the host nation of the World Cup and anything could happen! From a fantasy perspective, there are a couple of intriguing options.

Given that they take part in the only fixture on the 14th June Opening Night and could have an early double gameweek in some game formats, their assets should not be overlooked.

Key Player: Smolov
Set Piece Taker: Samedov
Nailed Starters: Kvdryashov and Akinfeev

With a host of defensive injuries, it’s the attacking players who have most appeal for Russia. Unfortunately, there are few players across their squad who look like guaranteed starters.

Smolov is their star striker, having started all of the last 12 games – he’s got six goals across this spell and has had a decent domestic season too, with 14 goals and 6 assists from 22 appearances.

Behind Smolov, winger Samedov looks to be the likely creator and he has the added bonus of being on set pieces and penalties too.

He’s been a constant presence for the national team over the last two years, with 3 goals and 7 assists across 17 appearances. However, he has not replicated anything like the same form at club level.

Elsewhere on the pitch, it’s difficult to predict the starting eleven. Left-back Kvdryashov and goalkeeper Akinfeev are likely to start every game.

Clean sheets look highly unlikely given their current form (no clean sheets since last summer), especially given the attacking threats from their opponents Egypt and Uruguay.

Their opening match against Saudi Arabia could present an opportunity for an unlikely shut out.

Saudi Arabia (67)

There really is little appeal from this Saudi team, who look highly unlikely to make it out of the group, with their opening match against similarly ranked Russia, the only hope of some points.

Little is known about the squad, who have barely featured in Europe, and may only be good as bench fillers.

Key Player: Al-Sahlawi
Set Piece Taker: Al-Abed
Nailed Starter: Hawsawi

Promising striker Al-Sahlawi had a strong qualifying campaign for Saudi, getting 16 goals and 2 assists across 15 appearances. He has replicated this form at domestic level, although the top division of Saudi Arabian football is hardly prolific!

Al-Abed is another player who had a decent qualification run, playing just behind Al-Sahlawi at no. 10, with 5 goals and 4 assists. His domestic season has been hampered by injury, which reduces his appeal somewhat, but he is on penalties for the national team.

In defence, Hawsawi is the captain and provides experience for the back line. A rare clean sheet could be possible in their opener against Russia, this side have managed to shut out Moldova, Algeria and Greece in recent fixtures

Egypt (46)

Egypt are up and coming in terms of national team success, mainly as a result of the emergence of one Mohammed Salah, who has set the Premier League alight this season.

They look likely to progress out of the group, with their opening game against Uruguay expected to be the toughest: a result here for the Egyptian side should make qualification a formality.

Key Player: Salah
Set Piece Taker: El-Said
Nailed Starter: Hegazi

Salah picked up a shoulder injury in the Champions League final, so it’s unclear whether he makes the starting 11 in Egypt’s first game, but he looks set to be an essential selection when fit and will be hard to dismiss for most Fantasy World Cup managers.

Update: According to manager Hector Cuper, Salah should be ready for Egypt’s first World Cup match. [source]

He’s won every individual award going for his performances in a Liverpool shirt this season, getting a massive 44 goals and 16 assists in 52 club appearances.

He’s been regularly chipping in with goals in qualification too and is capable of creating chances from nothing – a truly world-class player.

Salah looks set to be the penalty taker for Egypt, after converting a crucial spot kick to send them through to the World Cup finals, but if he is absent for the opener, El-Said looks set to fill his shoes.

He is the creative force for Egypt, picking up a couple of assists in national fixtures last year before picking up an injury.

He’s had a good season in the Saudi Arabia Premier League, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 30 appearances: some of the opposition will be much tougher here though!

With options across the pitch, Hegazi looks to be one of the most secure starters further back and with six clean sheets in their last 12 games, fantasy players could be hopeful of some clean sheets.

Hegazi has a decent goal threat too, with two headed goals in the Premier League this season and many other strong chances for West Brom.

Uruguay (17)

Uruguay look like the favourites to win the group and it’s no surprise when you look at their squad, with a number of talented players in attack and defence.

Their attacking force looks leathal, with some big names providing the goals, it won’t be without controversy though.

Key Players: Suárez and Cavani
Set Piece Taker: Sanchez
Nailed Starters: Godin, Gimineza and Muslera

There’s plenty of teams in the World Cup that have a strong striker, but Uruguay are one of the few teams blessed with two of them: Suarez and Cavani.

There’s no splitting them in terms of output and their link up play could lead to bundles of goals, especially against weaker opposition.

In qualification, Suárez got 6 goals and 8 assists, Cavani chipped in with 10 goals and an assist.

The numbers are impressive at club level too: Suárez has 31 goals and 18 assists for Barcelona this season, Cavani provided 14 goals and 12 assists for PSG.

It’s difficult to choose between the two, but some daily fantasy formats may allow you to select both! Sanchez is the key play-maker for Uruguay and he’s on most of their set pieces, so worth considering.

There will be no shortage of players for him to tee-up, with Suarez and Cavani up front.

Further back, captain Godin will be pairing up with Athletico team-mate Giminez at centre-back: the already established duo looks set to boost their clean sheet chances, keeping out Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela in their qualification campaign.

They too can offer an aerial threat, with Godin scoring three in qualification.

Muslera will give stability between the sticks, protected by the big men in front of him.

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