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Fantasy World Cup Russia Group A Guide

Fantasy World Cup Russia Group A Guide

Fantasy World Cup Russia Group A Guide

Welcome to Fantasy World Cup Russia Group A Guide. Group A is a juxtoposition of styles and personnel, boasting the breakout player of the season Mo Salah; an unusually well-rounded Uruguayan ensemble capable of going deep in this year’s tournament; the host nation Russia who will probably just be happy to get out of the group; and Saudi Arabia who… well, Saudi Arabia.

Uruguay are the bookies’ odds-on favourites to top the quartet, with Russia in second. One imagines third-favourites Egypt’s odds will fluctuate between ‘some chance’ and ‘no chance’ depending on the fitness of their star player. None of the teams are really expected to make the last eight, owing perhaps to potential clashes with Spain or Portugal in the second round.


World cup song: “You’re The One For Me, Fathi“
There’s not much doubt about the one player that everyone’s been talking about in the build up to Egypt’s third ever World Cup appearance. “Will he play?”, “How would Egypt cope without him?”, “How does he keep his hair looking so soft and bouncy?”. Well, calm down. I can exclusively reveal that, yes, Ahmed Hegazi will be just fine.

Let’s cut straight to the chase here. Hector Cuper’s Egypt are tactically very defensive. They’re even more defensive than Jose Mourinho in a post-match interview. They’re even less porous than stainless steel. They almost never lose by more than a single goal and they conceded a meagre 18 goals in the Argentinian’s first 32 games in charge. The caveat’s that they presumably didn’t face players of Luis Suarez’s calibre very often.

And so to Salah. A collective hasn’t leant on an individual this heavily since Rambo led India to independence and a gun-toting Gandhi almost single-handedly rescued a group of Christian missionaries. Or was it the other way round? In any case, it’s slim pickings elsewhere. If the Pharaohs can continue their frugal ways, you might be tempted by West Brom’s man-mountain Hegazi, right-back Ahmed Fathi or 45 years-young keeper Essam El-Hadary. Inevitably, few will look beyond Liverpool’s masterful talisman, whom Hector will hope can re’cuper’ate to shoulder the burden of a nation.


World Cup song: “You can call me Al”
Saudi fans would probably give their right hand to smuggle a player like Salah into their squad, though that would be the punishment anyway if found guilty under Shariah law.

As most of you will already know, Saudi Arabian’s domestic football history has been dominated by Al-Hilal FC, and this is still reflected by the club contributing a great number of the squad going to Russia. That being said, the best players arguably come from elsewhere in top scorer Mohammad al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr FC), who’s notched 28 from 38 games; and playmaker Yahya al-Shehri, who’s recently spent some time in La Liga with Leganes. Having yet to make a single appearance for the Spanish club, al-Shehri remains undeterred and in a stirring reposte gave a heartfelt battle-cry –


And if that doesn’t move you to tears, check your pulse.

Ex-Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi took up the reins late last year after the Green Falcons had already qualified, so they’ve yet to register a competitive game under his stewardship. However, consecutive 2-0 victories in May friendlies against Greece and Algeria, followed by a narrow 2-1 reverse at Italy have done much to instill some belief in a team unfancied to escape this group. Although tonight’s 3-0 hammering by Peru may be something of a reality check.

Fantasy-wise, Saudi players are going to be bench fillers at best. With this in mind, Omar Hawsawi in the centre of defence and full-back Yasser al-Shahrani are a couple of the more plausible options. Any productivity in the final third will likely be through the aforementioned Yahya al-Shehri.


World cup song: “You’ve Lost That Golovin Feeling“
Scandals and controversy never seem far from Russian sport. Whether this is often little more than agenda-driven political maneuvering or low-hanging fruit for some good old-fashioned tabloid xenophobia is best left for more learned people than I to debate. Russia is a beautiful country with some wonderful people, but even my blood boiled when I learned that they qualified for the 2018 World Cup without winning a single game, nay earning a single point. This disgusting level of blatant corruption has to surely be looked into by FIFA?

At the helm since 2016, Stanislav Cherchesov has the curious honour of being the only non-South American manager in Group A. His journey started where Leonid Slutsky’s ended, following a catastrophic Euro 2016 group stage exit propping up Wales, England and Slovakia.

Injuries have plagued the host nation’s preparation and much of their starting line-up remains somewhat of a guessing game, especially defensively. One certainty will be in goal, with captain Igor Akinfeev set to add to his 105 caps. Up front, FC Krasnodar’s Fyodor Smolov has an incredible domestic scoring record of 52 goals in 73 games while less prolific internationally, 12 from 31 isn’t too shabby either. Talented young players like Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksei Miranchuk could make an impact, but with so many uncertainties in the Russian squad, the aforementioned Smolov and Akinfeev look to be the safest bets.


World cup song: “Montevideo killed the radio star”
As the hosts and winners of the first ever World Cup in 1930, Uruguay have a unique relationship with this great competition. Were that not enough, they have the smallest population of any country to have lifted the trophy. More than 10 times smaller than the next in the list, Argentina.

Uruguay have long been painted as a rugged, competitive unit, stubborn in defence and explosive in attack. Yet, La Celeste’s Achilles heel has often been a lack of midfield creativity. That’s changed over the last year or so. The recent emergence of Juve’s Rodrigo Bentancur and Boca Juniors’ Nahitan Nandez rising up through the International youth levels, has reinvigorated an ageing team and The Sky Blue ultras could now have a team to get excited about.

The excellent Matias Vecino will be assured a starting berth after impressing for Inter this season. But it’s the familiar old guard that fantasy managers should turn to for reliable returns. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, capable of taking apart most defences in the world, will be sizing up Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia with some relish. Equally, it’s hard to see anyone not called Mo Salah puncturing the Uruguayan rearguard. Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, central defensive partners for both club and country, provide perhaps Group A’s best clean sheet prospects.

The full list of all the 23 man squads can be found by CLICKING HERE

Thanks for reading Fantasy World Cup Russia Group A Guide. This article was written by Bryan Munich

Group stage fixtures in full…

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  1. 37
    FC Sanchez says:

    Was debating this recently w/ colleagues of mine. Do you need to win the WC to be considered the Greatest of All Time?

    • 37.1

      Heck no, I think it helps if you are able to lead a team to a world cup victory, but let’s say Bale was easily the greatest player in the world and had been for the last 10 years, would any of us really expect Wales to win a world cup?

      I think what damages Messi a bit, is the comparison with Maradona. While Messi’s accomplishments for club are significantly better, many Argentinians still cling to Maradona for his 86 performance. Most people can name more players from the 60’s and 80s (who didn’t win) Brazilian teams than they can name from the Argies of 86. You go through that roster and they had no right to win in 86 or be in the final in 90. This is Messi’s weakest side since he started trying to win the world cup. He will probably never win one, but that shouldn’t disqualify him.

      Also, how do you judge a player, some might think a goal scorer is the greatest, another might feel a cam who creates for others. In the case of Maradona one might say that he got the best out his teammates and that makes him better than Messi and you could make a case for that.

      Asprilla was the best Colombian player I have seen, but barely any Colombian would consider him better than James, yet there is no doubt that when Tino was on his day he was virtually unstoppable.

      • Rosco77 says:

        I love Tino, it was an honor to watch him play at st James, especially against Barca!

      • FC Sanchez says:

        Agree totally. The Maradona comparison is somewhat unfair I reckon on a larger contextual level as well. Argentina was going through several military dictatorships and social frustrations during Maradona’s time and “D10S” offered a way out of their collective frustration which helped lead to his divine status. It’d be hard for Messi to replicate that kind of “savior” status today.

        What also makes me hesitate to agree w/ Maradona being given the G.O.A.T. attribute is his troubles w/ performance enhancing drugs (WC1994) and cocaine use (from the mid-1980s until 2004). Could Maradona have been taking PED’s at other stages in his career, especially in a time when perhaps drug testing wasn’t as rigorous as it is today? Messi has none of that baggage.

        Seems a lot of footy notables including Argentines have come out and said Messi has overtaken Maradona as the best player in history as well.

        In any case, I don’t think one has to win the WC to be in contention for G.O.A.T.. It’s also somewhat impossible and to an extent subjective with so many contextual/historical factors involved to decide on the best ever player or best ever anything. This need to rank anything and everything perhaps is the problem here!

        • Having said that and basically made a case for not needing to win a world cup, Maradona at his peak is still the best I have ever seen.

          I also don’t think Maradona was helped by more than hurt by drugs. Although you could make a case that taking care of yourself and not getting fat is part of being the best player ever. :)

        • DMC says:

          That’s all fair , but if Messi or Cristiano or Neymar don’t win something relevant at a national level the kids of 2050 will not remember them as we do with the Peles and Maradonas of this life.

        • AT says:

          That doesn’t make them inferior players, that just makes the kids of 2050 ignorant :D

        • DMC says:

          Yeah, that’s what we all are if asked about great players of the XX Century that didn’t win a national competition…

        • inittowinit says:

          DMC, Ronaldo has ;)

          I agree with AT here though, I think you can make a different case for these 2 such is the enormity of what they have done plus they’ve done it at arguably the 2 biggest and most famous clubs in the world. Accrington Stanley aside. And also in an age when the world is so much closer and their achievements are viewable at the touch of a button. Many of those who you talk about from 50 – 100 years ago did it on heresay and rumour and in the best cases some grainy footage. Makes it difficult to ‘remember’ them a bit more.

        • inittowinit says:

          Oh and I forgot to say…. aren’t you supposed to be busy writing something :) #GroupB Last time I heard from you you were asking for an hour extension. Two days ago :D

        • AT says:

          Init agrees with me? From this day forth, 5th June shall be a bank holiday :D

        • secretzorro says:

          CR7 won the Euros

        • Zed Leppelin says:

          What really irritates me is this rhetoric of “a player winning something” in a team sport… Like SZ says above, CR7 won the Euros…. CR7 didn’t win the Euros, Portugal did!!!!!!!!!! There are 11 players on the pitch in football, and of course a player like Ronaldo (or Messi, or Maradona) are more important than the other players, they are still just parts of a whole… And to rub it in even further Ronaldo got injured in the final so he “literally” didn’t win the Euros as he didn’t even help Portugal win it, which is all that single players do –> help the team to win something!

        • Zed Leppelin says:

          “That’s all fair , but if Messi or Cristiano or Neymar don’t win something relevant at a national level the kids of 2050 will not remember them as we do with the Peles and Maradonas of this life.”

          Disagree with this strongly! Even if we don’t take into account the internet and the fact the kids of 2050 can easily watch Messi and Ronaldo on YouTube, people will remember the countless Ballon d’Or wins, the ridiculous number of goals they scored, the CL wins, the fact that they are ridiculously famous, in adverts all over the world, winning a single tournament, even though it’s the WC, is totally irrelevant here… And as I said before it’s not the players who win but the teams….

        • DMC says:

          Yeah – I think many comments here diverted from the initial question. Of course Messi and Ronaldo or Ronaldo and Messi (to prioritize the best of those two) are and will be all time legends. But are they ‘the’ best ever (whatever that means)? I mean, we discussed for years and years (and still do) between Pele and Maradona or at an European level Cruif, Platini, Beckenbauer and more recently Zidane as being out there amongst the best ever! Why? Because they won the champions league? No. Because they won a big competition for their country. That itself doenst grant it (you still have to win at club level) but to be seen in those VHS tapes (ok, whatever they use in 2050) with the greatest of all time in the World you also need to win its biggest competition. And that’s what Ronaldo will do this summer and become the greatest player ever in the universe! Heck, in all universes!!

          *coming your way shortly init!

        • inittowinit says:

          Thanks mate :)

          Complete with LSD I see now :D

      • MidnightJonah says:

        Of course we can win a world cup Mito, I just don’t know which one just yet :), how very dare you lol

    • 37.2
    • 37.3
      Zed Leppelin says:

      Of course not, it’s a team sport! These debates are pointless!

      • Kralin says:

        Most debates are pointless but they can be interesting. Or dull and lurid, as the case may be. There are some very good points made above about national identity and Maradona.

        But there’s something heroic in losing as well. Sometimes it’s better to be remembered for losing. The Dutch side (and players) of the 1970s would probably have won best team awards in 1974 and 1978, had such gongs been handed out, despite losing in both finals.

        The fact that you win doesn’t necessarily make you the best side. Who cares who wins?

        • Zed Leppelin says:

          Interesting here is what Sanchez said about the military dictatorship and how that possibly affected football (it affected it by the way!)… How societal matters manifest themselves in sports as a more general question… But it’s a bit different thing to what was the initial question though! Doesn’t make this debate any more interesting, it’s just an interesting remark in and of itself!

          “The fact that you win doesn’t necessarily make you the best side. Who cares who wins?” Well put mate :smile:

    • 37.4
      AT says:

      Will Hughes has not won a World Cup. My answer is no :D

    • 37.5


      What a great topic! Thanks.

      I actually think club football has overtaken International these days and would add that a UEFA Champions League medal is at least the same as a World Cup winners medal in the eyes of the modern player. No?

      • inittowinit says:

        GP’s turned into a 5 Live Host :D

        I agree on the club thing. Perhaps not so much the CL thing but that’s possibly only because it’s there every year as opposed to the rarity of the WC. But then consistency is perhaps a better indicator than relying on a few games going well every 4 years.

      • FC Sanchez says:

        True that, GP. CL does hold weight for sure. And consistency should be weighted the most, perhaps, as Init suggested. In that case, as Jorge Valdano said a few years back, “Messi is Maradona every day. For the last five years, Messi has been the Maradona of the World Cup in Mexico.” Having said that, I feel these all-time player rankings, though great to debate, are in the end somewhat problematic, subjective, and impossible to agree upon (as with works of art, or types of food, etc.). I guess one thing we can claim, however, is that Brazil is the most successful national footy team as they have indeed won the most WCs… with another one to be added shortly!

        • Zed Leppelin says:

          It’s also another subjective matter to compare forwards, midfielders, wingers, defensive midfielders, central defenders, fullbacks, and goalkeepers… The best player ever in people’s conversations usually are strikers, players who score goals, but defenders, goalies, and defensive mids are as important to a football team than the strikers who score goals (or mids who score goals)… In my mind it’s impossible to compare attackers and defenders (or indeed goalies) and say who’s better at football, simply because they serve so different tasks… So yeah, it’s all subjective! It all boils down to football being a team sport! In tennis, for instance, you could argue that a certain player is greatest of all time, but in football it’s logically impossible.

        • AT says:

          Zed – you can’t win a football game by keeping clean sheets, therefore attackers are more important. MIND BLOWN :D

        • Zed Leppelin says:

          AT – Well, you can’t lose a football game by keeping clean sheets either :wink:

          Take Soton for instance, we ended up with 36 points last season, would have been AT LEAST 38 points if we never conceded a goal! :big-lol: :hippo:

        • AT says:

          Hahaha, I have nothing to say :lol:

  2. 38
    praveen says:

    Hello everyone,

    Now that all the world cup squads are out, I just wanted to have some fun asking some questions.
    1. Which squad has the least average height?
    2. Which squad has the highest average height?
    3. Which squad has the least average weight?
    4. Which squad has the highest average weight?
    5. Which squad has the least average age?
    6. Which squad has the highest average age?

  3. 39
  4. 40
    Otieno says:

    Good report. Is there going to be a group B guide?

  5. 41
    PunkDragon says:

    “You’ve lost that goLovin’ feeling” BWAHAHAHAHA Classic!

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