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World Cup Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

ESPN FC's Craig Burley debates whether Russia can get past Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Group A.

Hosts Russia could hardly have wished for a better World Cup draw. The opening game of the tournament will be against Saudi Arabia, which by the FIFA rankings, at least, is technically the worst match in the tournament.

Uruguay and Egypt should both have their wild cards and standout performers, but you fear for the chances of Saudi Arabia, who went through two coaches in qualifying.

Predicted finish

1. Uruguay -- Oscar Tabarez could go with a flying, attacking team with their two superstars up front, and even if Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are not on top form, they should still have too much for the rest of the group.

2. Russia -- Coach Stanislav Cherchesov's overhauling of Russia's defence, making it more youthful, could be key, but while that might not be enough to beat Uruguay, they should dispatch the other two teams relatively straightforwardly.

3. Egypt -- Under Hector Cuper, Egypt are not likely to be the most thrilling side in the World Cup, happy to sit back and defend. They could frustrate their opponents, with the threat of Mohamed Salah up front always there. In another group they may have had a better chance.

4. Saudi Arabia -- An unpredictable side, given their problems with managers, but you doubt they have enough quality to finish any higher than last spot in this group. Of course, the capacity of a relatively unknown quantity to surprise cannot be discounted.


Group A
Hosts Russia are tipped to advance while it looks bleak for Saudi Arabia.


Must see match: Russia vs. Saudi Arabia

While these draws can be interminable, you'd have to have no emotion at all not to get pretty excited about the reveal of who will be playing when. The opening game of the tournament is not exactly one of outstanding quality -- these are two teams, after all, ranked 65th and 63rd in the world -- but it will nonetheless be the occasion that truly tingles the soul.

Uruguay will look to Luis Suarez for inspiration as they look to emerge from Group A.

X factor: Luis Suarez

On paper, discounting the hosts' inherent advantage, Uruguay are theoretically the strongest team in Group A, but so much depends on the man who should in theory be their spark.

Suarez has looked extremely sluggish for Barcelona this season, which might be because of injury or a sudden loss of his powers. Whatever the reason, Tabarez will hope he's just been saving his energy for the summer.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.


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