This preview is the first in a series going group-by-group through the World Cup field seeking to determine which team is the most likable. It’s a fun Minnesotan spin on an otherwise trite topic. Check out all of the previews at: https://www.epluribusloonum.com/2018/6/11/17449884/a-2018-world-cup-preview-but-minnesota-style-russia
The past few months have been something of a rollercoaster for Egyptians. They almost missed qualifying for the tournament, but a late penalty from new savior Mohamed Salah gave them their first berth since 1990. Salah has also been putting Egyptian soccer on the map over the last year. He finished the season has the Premier League’s top scorer, averaging almost a goal per game. Salah also led Liverpool to the UEFA Champions’ League final, where heartbreak struck. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who doesn’t exactly have the cleanest history, controversially took Salah down, and the Egyptian star’s shoulder was dislocated. There’s still a chance he won’t be ready for the start of the Group Stage, though it is certain that he will return as early as possible.
2. Saudi Arabia
They have 1,000/1 odds to win the World Cup, but hey, Leicester City had worse. They have some fun players to watch, though. Nawaf Al Abed scored four penalties in qualifying and is known as “The Brave One” in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Al Sahlawi scored 16 goals in 14 appearances, meaning that he is certainly an offensive producer. Also, remember how fun Chile were to watch at the 2016 Copa America Centenario (they pressed their way to a 7-0 win over Mexico)? Chile’s then manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, is in charge of this Saudi team.
The only likable thing about Uruguay is that something will probably happen. Like at the 2014 World Cup, where they crashed out early, but not before Luiz Suarez enjoyed some Italian cuisine on the pitch (see below). Since winning the first World Cup in 1930, Uruguay haven’t enjoyed much success of late. They’ll look to change that and will be led by none other than Suarez himself, the country’s all-time leading goalscorer whose goal is now to take a bite out of crime.
Really, there’s more to dislike than like here. They didn’t even qualify for the tournament—host nations are automatically entered—and it can be argued that they aren’t wanted at their own tournament. Russian hooligans are now infamous across Europe, mostly due to their actions at the 2016 European Championships, and there are huge security question marks over how they’ll be handled at this tournament. Putin may be able to put himself in whatever ruling position he likes—and may be able to convince FIFA to hand him the world’s biggest sporting event—but he won’t be able to put the ball in the net for Russia. Unless they’re playing shirtless on horses.