Soccer World Cup Group A: Round 1 Preview and Betting Picks

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The 2018 FIFA World Cup is finally starting!

I feel like the past couple of weeks have been endless, but the wait is over at last.

Hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia will have the honor of playing the first game on Thursday to kick things off. Egypt against Uruguay is the second match, this time on Friday.

Both fixtures are part of Group A, which seems rather tight. I already shared my general preview and outright betting picks, but it’s time to move to the actual games and also add my first shot at the BetVictor Million Pound Challenge.

Let’s hope the World Cup gets off to a good start!

Russia vs. Saudi Arabia

Here are the main odds for the opening game of the FIFA World Cup.

Russia to Win1.41
Saudi Arabia to Win9.25
Under 2.5 Goals1.61
Over 2.5 Goals2.35

The hosts Russia will be hoping for a bright start of the campaign against Saudi Arabia. The home team is the favorite of the bookies for this game and to progress from Group A.

This puts Russia under a lot of pressure, and the results in the friendlies played recently didn’t help much. The country managed a draw against Turkey and lost against Austria, France, and Brazil. While all those teams are solid, the Russians surely hoped for a better performance.

The biggest problem of the nation is the lack of creativity up front. In fact, this was one of the main reasons Russia got dumped in the group nation of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

A quick look at the squad shows only two players with more than 10 goals for the national team, and the best tally is 12, scored by Fyodor Smolov. This is hardly impressive, and Russia will have to find some inspiration for the World Cup, or the lack of goals will prevent the home nation from a good performance.

At the same time, the defense is decent, and captain Igor Akinfeev is a solid goalkeeper with more than 100 caps. The back line of the Russians should be able to hold against Saudi Arabia that is not very creative itself.

Saudi Arabia has only 3 players that are not part of the local league, and that league can barely compare to the European club competitions.

It will be hard for Saudi Arabia to achieve much with this group, and I expect them to play a very defensive system and hope to score on the counter.

If you combine that with the huge pressure on Russia and the problems they have in attack, I expect a tight affair and not many goals.

Prediction and Betting Pick

I think Russia will have enough to beat Saudi Arabia in the end, but it certainly won’t be an easy match. This is the reason I don’t like the low odds for a Russian win and won’t go for this option.

Instead, I believe the under 2.5 goals at 1.61 is a much better option. It would be hard for Saudi Arabia to score a goal, and the team will try to prevent Russia from doing the same.

I expect the hosts to be nervous, which will contribute even further to their problems in attack. Still, they should be able to just edge Saudi Arabia, so my prediction for this game is 1-0 to Russia.

PICKUnder 2.5 Goals1.61

Egypt vs. Uruguay

The main odds for Egypt versus Uruguay are as follows.

Egypt to Win7.00
Uruguay to Win1.61
Under 2.5 Goals1.50
Over 2.5 Goals2.50

Egypt will face Uruguay on Friday in the other game of the first round in this Group A. I would say this is one of the key matches for a couple of reasons.

For a start, the South American team is expected to win the group, and a win here will put them in a commanding position. At the same time, Egypt will be under a lot of pressure if that happens and might not recover.

The country is one of the most successful when it comes to the African Nations Cup but somehow fails when it comes to the World Cup. Egypt will hope this won’t be the case this time around, and there are reasons to believe they have a shot.

Of course, the main one is called Mohamed Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool this season. The problem is, he got injured in the Champions League and is doubtful for this game.

No one can tell for sure if Salah will start, but he did start training again this week. I expect the medical team of Egypt to do its best, and my personal hunch is that the forward will play against Uruguay.

The team lacked any creativity in the last two friendlies without its talisman and didn’t manage to score against both Belgium and Colombia. If we look back, we will see a trend, as Egypt has lost or drawn all of its games in 2018, never scoring more than one goal in the process.

This is a huge problem because Uruguay is a team with a solid defense and has yet to concede a goal in 2018.

Coach Oscar Tabarez has built a squad that takes full advantage of the attacking talents of the likes of Suarez and Cavani but is strong at the back as well.

I feel Uruguay is by far the best team in this Group A, and Egypt will be the first team to suffer from that. The only hope is that Salah does indeed start, and they perform at their best. Even then, it seems Uruguay is way better.

Prediction and Betting Picks

The odds for Uruguay winning this game are good enough for me, as I believe 1.61 does contain some positive expected value.

The strong defense and world-class strikes of the South American side should do the job against an Egyptian team that is struggling to find inspiration in attack even when Salah is fit.

My prediction is that Uruguay will win this first-round match 2-0 and set the tone for the rest of the group stage.

PICKUruguay to Win1.61

BetVictor Million Pound Challenge

It’s also time to start working towards the BetVictor Million Pound Bet. As I mentioned in my general post about this promotion, I won’t go too crazy in the beginning, as I want to see what the leaderboards will show first.

The match I picked is Egypt-Uruguay, and my bet is as follows.

  • Uruguay to win
  • Uruguay to win the first half
  • Both teams to score – no
  • Luis Suarez to score
  • Uruguay to score over 1.5 goals
  • Under 7.5 corners
  • Egypt over 1.5 cards

This brings a nice price of 32.00, which is enough for an opening bet. As I already explained, I expect Uruguay to win, which is the reason for most of the selections.

At the same time, the style of both teams doesn’t suggest many corners, and I expect some of the Egyptian players to be booked because Uruguay has some exceptional dribblers.

Obviously, it’s a long shot, but this is what the BetVictor Million Pound Challenge is about.

Final Words

It’s early days, and the friendlies could be deceiving, so I would suggest starting your World Cup betting experience with smaller wagers until you know the teams better. At least that’s what I’m going to do.

If you have some other ideas about the round 1 matches from Group A, don’t hesitate to share them in the comment section, and good luck, everyone.

The World Cup is almost underway!

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