Bang Average World Cup: Group A Preview
Group Overview

Russia: 40/1

Saudi Arabia: 1000/1

Egypt: 150/1

Uruguay: 28/1

With no superpower, this is probably the worst group. Who are we kidding, the group is garbage. Russia as a 1 seed was always going to make for a relatively soft group, but Uruguay should cruise through a group in which they are the only side with a FIFA rank in the top 45. Everyone knows the FIFA ranks are definitive and cannot be questioned. If Suarez and co don't qualify with a game to spare, they should all be bitten in the forearm by an overly aggressive, bucktoothed nutcase.

The 'official' game still isn't released at time of writing, so prices are from fantasyfootball.telegraph.co.uk.

Russia

Oh boy. Theoretically this is a fantasy piece, but there might have to be some filler here. This is being touted as the poorest Russia team in living memory and it's not like they've been that good over the last 30 years. Obviously as hosts they didn't have to qualify, which is for the best because they wouldn't have. They were weak defensively before they lost two of their three starting centre backs to injury (Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya). They didn't make it out of the group stage in the Confederations Cup in 2017, played at home, and as of writing haven't won since October 2017. You know how long ago that was? MikeP was in the US.

Players to Watch

Fedor Smolov isn't terrible, not really terrible anyway. He's won the Russian golden boot in consecutive seasons and is in the hunt again this term. If you're being optimistic, they start they get an opening game with Saudi Arabia, they have a home advantage that should be worthwhile and Uruguay will be playing a weakened team in their final game. At 3.7m, Smolov is a decent shout for the group stages to let you spend money elsewhere.

Players to Avoid

Captain Igor Akinfeev is a recognisable name and remains one of Russian's best players, but please don't be doing anything silly. He might be good, but the defense is not and there aren't points for saves round here. If your being pessimistic, they will be nervous in the opening game, not ideal when you're a bit crap. Egypt are well organised and have Salah (possibly), while if Uruguay need a result against them going into the final game they might get a right walloping. There's a reason the knockout stages haven't been mentioned, in the highly unlikely event they get there, they don't get far.


Saudi Arabia

Three mangers in the last year isn't what we in the business call 'ideal preparation'. With an inexperienced squad, they sent several players on loan to teams in Spain, a move which somewhat predictably back-fired. They each got somewhere between very little and no playing time, so they come into the tournament both inexperienced and lacking match practice. Lovely.

Players to Watch

No thanks. It won't be a massive surprise to find you aren't shopping in the Saudi squad for your fantasy stars, but they do have some very cheap options. Fahad Al-Muwallad is one of the fellas who got a loan move to La Liga and even managed 26 substitute minutes. Whoscored say's he's a forward and at 2.3m he might be the best budget option on the game.

Players to Avoid

Well obviously, most of them. There are better places to find budget defenders and even in a weak group, they can expect to be largely on the back foot, not the best thing for attacking players. Plus it's useful if those players have actually played a competitive game in the last six months.


Egypt

It's difficult to know where to start with the Egypt team. Not really, it's obviously Mohamed Elneny's injury. Hecor Cuper named the Arsenal lynch-pin in the provisional squad despite an ankle injury, expect him to continue in the vain of many injured World Cup stars and find a way to start. Expect him to continue further in those footsteps by being rubbish when he does start.

Players to Watch

(Note: At time of writing, the latest is that Salah is expected to be fit, though this was written before the CL final.)

Don't worry, we aren't really going to talk about Elneny more. Mo Salah has been a force of nature this season and if you need convincing of that then I can't really help you. He's the star of this Egypt team (shocker) and their best hope of qualifying is that he carries his form into the tournament. In Sobhi and Trezeguet they do have some other creative talent, though clearly it's noting compared to the supporting cast at Liverpool. That's right John, I called Firmino 'supporting cast'. Deal with it. At 5.9m, he's over a million cheaper than the top strikers and very much affordable, the word of caution would be Egypt's style of play. Salah is capable of magic by himself, but Cuper's team are happy to sit back and defend - not exactly how you'd describe Liverpool's style of play. With games against Saudi Arabia and Russia, you want him in your side though.

Players to Avoid

Injured, defensive minded and at what I can only assume is a Premier League Premium price, Elneny is a no-go at 4.4m. Hegazi also seems to be suffering from a price bump due to his Premier League status, or maybe he was priced after his hot start to the 2017/18 Togga season. Most of us remember the rest of the season and should steer clear.


Uruguay

Group favourites and an outside bet for tournament winners, there should be plenty of fantasy goodness to come out of the Uruguay side. Unbelievably they skipped their once-per-four-year trip to the  World Cup playoffs, accidentally cruising to second in the South America group, behind only Brazil. Captain Diego Godin is joined in defense by Atletico Madrid teammate Jose Maria Gimenez and everyone knows bringing club relationships to international football is the key to success (see Spain). In truth, defense is not the story though. Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez are one of the most devastating partnerships at the tournament and the Uruguay attack largely overwhelmed teams in qualifying. If they chose to play the same style, the group should be a formality and a deep run isn't out of the question.

Players to Watch

Similar to Salah, the big two strikers for Uruguay are below the elite Messi / Ronaldo / Neymar level. With two weak defenses in their group, thye are both worthy of consideration and the price point is about right. Price aside, Suarez ability in build up play would give him the edge, so having to pay slightly more for him makes sense. while I have no argument with doing that, Cavani would be where I spend my money. In the later stage of the tournament I'd expect Saurez to flourish, but against weaker opposition Cavani will feast. He led all South American players with 10 qualifying goals and has an excellent rapport with Suarez. 

No-one stands out as an attacking threat from a young midfield, though Juve's Rodrigo Bentancur represents good value as a starter at 2.9m, playing for a team expected to do well. In defense, Godin may be the leader, but I'd much rather have Josema and save myself a cool 0.6m.

Players to Avoid

Manager Oscar Tabarez may have moved on from Carlos Sanchez as a starting option, but he's most certainly still priced as one. One to give  miss, even if Tabarez does opt for experience.

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