RUSSIA The weight of expectation lingering over any host nation, in any sporting discipline, is tangible, but it’s fair to suggest that this pressure has been ramped up a notch when it comes to Russia. As a proud sporting nation, anything short of knockout round football would be deemed a disaster; which is a concern given the lack of form and quality shown across the four years leading into this tournament. The group is favourable, but their prospects aren’t. PREDICTION: Group Stages SAUDI ARABIA While no country simply turns up for the experience, Saudi Arabia could be forgiven for accepting that their achievement was in making it to the tournament. Anything else would be a serious surprise, but an evenly matched group and a tantalising role in the World Cup’s opening match against a vulnerable Russia may be the catalyst for a Saudi shock.
PREDICTION: Group Stages EGYPT URUGUAY