Host nation Russia get the 2018 FIFA World Cup underway in Group A, with the opening fixture of the tournament taking place in Moscow, at the Luzhniki Stadium, on June 14.
They are joined in Group A by Asian qualifiers Saudi Arabia – back at the World Cup for the first time since 2006; Egypt – who are playing in only their third World Cup finals; and two-time champions Uruguay.
Read on for the fixtures, group odds and forecasts in Group A…
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
Rostov Arena, Rostov
Cosmos Arena, Samara
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Uruguay, who qualified in second place behind Brazil in the South American qualifying table, are favourites top Group A despite Russia’s home advantage.
They are 4/5 with Bet365 to finish first, while Russia are 9/5. Egypt are 11/2, while Saudi Arabia are 40/1 to finish top of the pile.
Egypt – semi-finalists at the Africa Cup of Nations – could be Africa’s surprise package at this year’s tournament, however – particularly if Mohamed Salah recovers from injury to play a starring role.
Nevertheless, Uruguay are favourites for good reason – they geared up for the World Cup by beating the Czech Republic and Wales to win the China Cup, Edinson Cavani scored in both of those games, while Luis Suarez netted in the first too. With those two in their team, attacking quality is clearly their strength.
Group qualification is where things could get a little more interesting – Uruguay are, unsurprisingly, big favourites to go through at 1/6 with Bet365. Russia are also odds-on thanks to their home advantage, but Egypt could be a tempting price at 6/4. Saudi Arabia are 7/1.
Russia have been in poor form in the build-up to the World Cup – they failed to win any of their five international friendlies between October and March, conceding three apiece in each of their last three.
They also failed to advance from the group stage despite home advantage at the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Egypt, on the other hand, will be keen to build on their run to the semi-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations. They will hope to have Mohamed Salah up front, who was in supreme goalscoring form in his debut season with Liverpool before his injury in the Champions League final, and will be keen to continue Africa’s tradition of teams upsetting the odds to progress beyond the group stages.
Alongside offering 13/8 on Egypt to qualify, Bet365 are also offering 9/4 on Russia missing out on a place in the second round.
With Uruguay such big favourites to qualify, you can get more favourable odds if you pick a group forecast.
Uruguay finishing first and Russia second will land you 2/1, but Egypt pipping the hosts into second place improves those odds to 7/1.
Unsurprisingly, given they have failed to win a game at any of their last three World Cup appearances – and have not even qualified for the last two editions – Saudi Arabia are odds-on favourites to finish bottom of the group. They are 2/5 with Bet365 to finish fourth in Group A.
With Russia in poor form, and their home advantage seemingly negated in their pre-World Cup friendlies, the hosts could struggle to get through the group stages. They are 9/4 to fail to qualify for the second round, while a 1st – Uruguay, 2nd – Egypt group forecast will land you 7/1.
Uruguay (4/5 to win Group A with Bet365)
Egypt (13/8 to qualify for second round with Bet365)
Russia (9/4 to fail to advance beyond the group stage with Bet365)
Saudi Arabia (2/5 to finish bottom of Group A with Bet365)
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