Hosts Russia will take on Saudi Arabia on Thursday in the long awaited World Cup 2018 opener. The two teams are in Group A, alongside Uruguay and Egypt.
Russia will have high hopes to qualify from the Group Stages in their home World Cup and indeed they have a shot considering the accessible level of opposition, but in all honesty there aren`t many other reasons for optimism in the Russian camp. Russia has been underwhelming for quite some time, and they won just 5 out of 20 matches since head coach Stanislav Cherchesov took over in August 2016. Their last win was back in October 2017 and the team was very poor in the pre – World Cup friendlies, recording 1 draw and 3 losses. As usual, they have been toothless in front of goal, scoring just 2 times in the 4 games played.
Saudi Arabia achieved qualification for the World Cup by finishing second in a group with Japan and Australia, which was a pretty good performance. Head coach Bert van Marwijk stepped down after the performance and was replaced with ex-Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi in November last year. Since the team got together in early May for World Cup preparation Saudi Arabia defeated Algeria and Greece (both 2-0) and lost against Italy (1-2), Peru (0-3) and Germany (1-2).Bet on Russia v Saudi Arabia and claim your 100% (100 Eur) bonus at Ohmbet now!
Team news & lineups:
Russia has been hit by injuries ahead of the World Cup, losing important players like Kokorin, Vasin, Dzhikiya or Kambolov. Saudi Arabia on the other hand has its squad healthy.
Russia: Akinfeev – Granat, Kutepov, Kudryashov – Samedov, Golovin, Kuzyaev, Zobnin, Zhirkov – Dzyuba, Smolov
Saudi Arabia: Al-Mayouf – Al-Shahrani, Om. Hawsawi, Os. Hawsawi, Al-Harbi – Al-Shehri, Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Jassim, Al-Muwallad – Al-Sahlawi
The Russians are rated as 1.40 odds favorites ahead of this clash and one might feel that the price is too low. Indeed, Russia doesn`t seem to deserve such low odds, despite their status as hosts and their (slightly) superior individual quality.
Russia has been poor in the last couple of years and their pre World Cup form has been even worse. They struggle in front of goal, and injuries to a number of key players will not help.
Saudi Arabia might not be world beaters, but they are an honest side and had a good World Cup preparation with a couple of good wins and close games against the likes of Italy or Germany.
This World Cup opener will be crucial for both sides, but the pressure will be on Russia to deliver against arguably the worst team in the group. Expect a tight battle with nobody taking risks, and Saudi Arabia should be able to hold its own against a toothless Russia side which lacks attacking quality. On the other hand, Russia should stay safe at the back if they don`t make mistakes.
A 0-0 or 1-0 could be on the cards, so under 2.5 goals and Saudi Arabia to cover the +1.5 handicap both look like good bets as far as I`m concerned. The under has slightly better odds and does seem a bit safer to me just in case the referees give Russia a slight push, so that will be my tip here. Prediction: Russia – Saudi Arabia 1-0.