The World Cup Group Stages are coming to an end this week, and Group A sprung no real surprises, despite Mo Salah’s Egypt finishing with zero points. Over the next few days I’ll be writing recaps for all eight World Cup groups as they end, and we’ll start with Group A today!
The first game of the 2018 World Cup took place between the two bastions of human rights across the world, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia had never won a World Cup game before 2018, so it was no surprise that the hosts Russia rolled through them 5-0, with two of those goals coming in second half injury time, when the Saudi’s were simply too tired to compete with a strong Russian side.
British betting company Paddy Power have committed to donating around $13,000 to LGBT+ causes for every goal the Russian team scored, making Russia the unlikely heroes for LGBT+ rights during this World Cup. Over the course of the group stage,
Russia scored eight goals and finished second, making their way to the next round and ‘donating’ more than $100,000 in the process.
They’ll have a great chance to be secondary donators in the next round where they’ll face a Spain side on Sunday that have played rather poor so far, but we’ll talk about that in the next article!
Uruguay topped the group, winning all three of their group stage games and stopped Russia’s winning streak on the last day of Group A fixtures 3-0.
Star striker Luis Suarez (above) has two goals so far in those three games, and he’ll be hoping to add to that tally in the next round where he and his Uruguay teammates will face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Uruguay, like Spain, was a team that didn’t truly impress in the group stages, which seems to have become a bit of a trend in this 2018 World Cup. Uruguay only showed what they could truly do in the last game of the group stages against a poor Egypt side, where they won 3-0.
Portugal will be hoping to take any advantage they can in that second round game and seeing how Uruguay could have easily faltered in the group could give Ronaldo’s men that extra confidence to knock Suarez and Uruguay out.
Saudi Arabia finally did get their first win in a World Cup game, beating an already knocked out Egypt in the final game of the group stages.
One of the big stories that will likely come out of this World Cup is the poor performance by Mo Salah and his Egyptian teammates, but it’s hard to see a scenario where they would have performed better than the Uruguayans and the Russians who finished in the top two of the group.
Salah, who was injured in Liverpool’s Champions League Final loss to Real Madrid, wasn’t truly fit for the first game, and it was rather obvious watching him be behind the pace of the rest of the players on the pitch.
It’s always going to be hard to be the main man in a national team that simply isn’t that good, and add to that an injury and a seemingly forced push back in to the team, it’s a recipe for disaster.
It’s unclear whether Salah will return for Egypt after some rumored arguments within that national team, but you’d have to think that this experience has really soured his feelings towards playing for Egypt, and it may well slow his recovery from his injury leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Overall, Group A sprung no big surprises, despite Saudi Arabia finishing above Egypt, but with the circumstances surrounding the Egyptian team, Group A finished very similarly to how many will have expected it to before the tournament.
As earlier stated, Uruguay will face Portugal in the second round, and Russia will face Spain, and in the next recap we’ll go through a wild final day of fixtures in Group B!
FInal Group A Standings
* – Goal Difference
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about International Football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular sports tournament in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org