IT'S just over three weeks until World Cup 2018 kicks off and I'm starting my run-up by previewing all eight groups.
So let's start with Group A and hosts Russia kick off the tournament with a game against the lowest-ranked side to make the finals in Saudi Arabia.
With Egypt and Uruguay making up the section this is a must-win game for the Russians and the pressure will be on to make a perfect start. And there have been famous occasions when the hosts have slipped in their openers.
Russia are 1-3 at Unibet to start with three points but this is no gimme. Russia have failed miserably in recent finals – going out in the groups at the 2014 World Cup with just two points and their only point at Euro 2016 came against England.
CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev is their key man while Aleksandr Kokorin and Yuri Zhirkov will be looking to shine on home soil but this a team without too many stars.
In Saudi Arabia they face a side with none though and almost all of their players are performing in their home league. The Saudis finished second in qualifying – ahead of Australia – and will put up a good fight.
Russia are 12-5 at William Hill not to qualify and it's a bet I'm interested in with their match against Egypt the key one. Many will see Egypt as one-man team thanks to Mo Salah after a devastating season with Liverpool.
Salah netted five times in qualifying and he'll need to score a few goals if Egypt are to progress and they have every chance although they've never won a game at the finals. Apart from Salah their best known players are Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny and Stoke's Ramadan Sobhi.
Egypt open against Uruguay and it will be interesting to see how they perform on the biggest of stages. The South Americans are of course star-studded and could go deep in the tournament if European based Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani take their shooting boots to Russia.
Key game could be Russia v Egypyt on June 19 and the Egyptians look big at 18-5 with BetStars to win with the hosts just over evens.
- Uruguay to win Group A (1-1, McBookie)
- Saudi Arabia to finish bottom (2-5, McBookie)
- Uruguay/Egypt straight forecast (6-1, Unibet)