Super 6 returns for the World Cup and, for those unaware of Uruguay and Iran’s defensive heroics or Morocco’s wealth of creative talent, we provide the key information to help you win the £100k jackpot…
By Billy Cundall
Key stat: Russia (66th) versus Saudi Arabia (67th) brings together the two lowest placed qualifying nations in the FIFA World Rankings, although Russia’s fall in the rankings – well below their average of 23rd - can be attributed to their automatic qualification to the World Cup as host nation.
Form: Russia haven’t won any of their last six international fixtures, although their run has been tough with the likes of France, Brazil, Argentina and Spain amongst their schedule. Their last victory came against Iran in October 2017. Saudi Arabia have won two of their last six, losing two and drawing once.
Russia’s last victory at a World Cup came against Tunisia in 2002, having failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 editions, as well as failing to win any of their games in the 2014 tournament in Brazil, but Saudi Arabia’s winless run at the World Cup runs even further back, when they beat Belgium 1-0 in 1994.
Key men: Krasnodar’s Fyodor Smolov will be one of Russia’s main attacking threats, having scored 12 goals in 32 appearances for his country.
Saudi Arabia striker Mohammad Al Sahlawi, who reportedly is on trial with Manchester United, scored 16 goals in 14 qualification games for this year’s World Cup.
Key stat: The Moroccans have only ever won two World Cup fixtures, against Scotland in 1998 and Portugal in 1986, while Iran have won just one, beating the USA in 1998.
Form: Morocco haven’t lost an international in 12 games, with the last loss coming versus Cameroon in June 2017, while Iran lost their last international game 2-1 versus Turkey, but had won four of their last five before that.
Key men: Morocco will be led by Juventus defender Medhi Benatia. The Serie A title winner has made a formidable partnership with Italian Giorgio Chiellini at club level, and will need to transfer his form into the international stage in order to be key to Morocco’ defensive stability.
Iran will rely heavily on ex-Fulham midfielder Ashkan Dejagah and AZ Alkmaar’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh to lead them to success, they both contributed two goals each in qualifying, as well as playing pivotal roles in the attacking style of the side.
Key stat: The last meeting between these two nations ended in a 6-0 French victory in Paris, with Olivier Giroud bagging a brace.
Form: France have won four of their last six internationals, with the only loss coming versus Colombia in March, while Australia have lost three of their last six games, but won their most recent match 4-0 against the Czech Republic.
Key men: Manchester United’s Paul Pogba will be expected to step-up again this summer for France after winning the Young Player of the Tournament four years ago in Brazil.
Aston Villa’s Mile Jedinak will have to play a huge role in anchoring the midfield if Australia are to be successful this summer.
Key stat: The only meeting between the two in Cairo saw Uruguay run out 2-0 winners. Atletico centre-back Diego Godin opened the scoring before an Abdel El Saka own goal condemned the Egyptians to defeat.
Form: Egypt have only won one of their last six, with their only victory coming from a 2-1 triumph over DR Congo in October 2017. They have since failed to beat the likes of Kuwait and Ghana, with their last result coming in the form of a 0-0 draw versus Colombia.
Uruguay lost their last international fixture, falling to Austria 2-1 in November 2017. They were unbeaten in the previous five on the way to secure South American World Cup qualification.
Key men: Egypt will be eagerly waiting on the fitness of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. The Premier League’s top goal scorer suffered an injury in the Champions League final versus Real Madrid, while Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny is also hoping to be fit after an injury scare sustained late into last season.
Key stat: Portugal have never beaten Spain in any of their five Wold Cup games, with the Spanish winning four matches whilst the other one ended as a draw in the group stages.
Form: Portugal have only won two of their last six international fixtures, and none of their last three, whereas Spain are unbeaten in the same period.
Key men: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo will be desperate to lift the World Cup this summer in what is likely to be his last international tournament. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner helped lead his side to Euro 2016 glory and will look to repeat that success once more in Russia.
Spain’s key man could be Thiago Alcantara, who will be expected to take the reins from the retired Xavi. The Bayern Munich midfielder received the highest of praise from former coach Pep Guardiola saying “it’s him or nobody. I want Thiago” after becoming manager at Bayern Munich.
Key stat: This will be Iceland’s first ever appearance at the FIFA World Cup, whereas two-time champions Argentina will be competing in their 12th successive edition.
Form: Argentina have won four of the last six, with their losses coming to Spain (6-1) and Nigeria (4-2). Iceland, however, have only won one of their last six versus Indonesia, losing four.
Key men: Argentina’s embarrassment of attacking riches is crowned by five time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, who won the FIFA Golden Ball last World Cup in Brazil. The Barcelona forward will captain Argentina and will be pivotal in any success they achieve in Russia.
Iceland’s key-man is Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. The set-piece specialising attacking-midfielder will be expected to perform to continue Iceland’s magnificent rise in international football.
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Odds correct as of 1430 BST 13/06/18
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