As far as Group A of the World Cup goes, offshore sportsbooks are like Burger King. As in they want you to have it Uruguay. The South Americans are the odds-on favorites to come out on top. Even ahead of the hosting team. Los charruas are by no means strangers to upsetting expectations. They were the runners-up in the CONMEBOL round robin World Cup qualifier. They finished second only to uber-favorite Brazil. Additionally, Uruguay finished ahead of Argentina. The other two members of the group are Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The former were the CAF Third Round Group E winners. Meanwhile, the latter were the AFC Third Round Group B runners-up.
La Celeste is association football’s O.G. Their first of two World Cup wins was the first World Cup. And their second and heretofore last win was over half a century ago. Ever since, Uruguay has placed fourth thrice, in 1954, 1970, and 2010. The Uruguayans, including Luis Suarez (whose favorite album may or may not be NIN’s With Teeth) should start strong. As a matter of fact, and according to FiveThirtyEight, Uruguay received the World Cup’s ultimate prize. Which is, apparently, Group A, and not, you know, the actual trophy. Go figure. They may not be too far off, though, when they say Group A could be the weakest in tournament history. All in all, Uruguay should be able to breeze through this one.
The hosting nation is always expected to at least have a halfway decent performance. This tacit rule applies regardless of that country’s overall status. For example, USA reached the round of 16 in 1994 and managed to lose to Brazil by just one goal. Sometimes, the host may receive a little help from the officials. coughSouth Koreacough. Luckily for the Russians, offshore sportsbooks have them pegged as second favorites within Group A. Which means, in good theory, they won’t embarrass Father Putin. And he, in turn, won’t have to go Pussy Riot on them.
The Pharaohs are returning to the grandest stage of them all after an absence of almost three decades. Last seen in a World Cup in 1990, Egypt was then making their first appearance in almost 60 years. All things considered, they must be happy to just be there. They’re the Ringo of Group A. Even the best online sportsbook, and I mean “best” as in “kind,” wouldn’t give Egypt too good odds. Why is that? Because like Indiana Jones sometimes, they could be without Salah. And we all know Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were the weakest entries in the franchise. Manager Hector Cuper did include injured Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in the squad’s World Cup roster. However, he may attend the competition as a mere tourist. The Egyptian Football Association said he would be ready, but time will tell.
Saudi Arabia (+4000)
The Falcons last played in a World Cup in 2006, and last won a World Cup game in 1994. About the only things the Arabs can hope to gain from the tournament is experience. And world class experience is something they sorely lack. And they will also get to enjoy firsthand the pageantry inherent to the World Cup. Perhaps more so than any country in the competition other than the hosts. Against whom they will play the opening game of the tourney. That will make Saudi Arabia the first Asian nation to play in the World Cup opener. That’s not a matchup that will have many people clearing the 14th of June. But it’s still something, right?
Odds taken from Intertops.eu, a paragon among offshore sportsbooks.