The opening match of the World Cup 2018 is the clash between two lowest-ranked teams of all 32 teams taking part in the tournament. We’re talking, of course, about Russia (70th place on FIFA ranking list) and Saudi Arabia (number 67 on FIFA’s list).
Although ranked worse than their opponent, Russia is the host of the tournament, so they are going to have massive support at the Luzhniki, the largest stadium in the country. If you would like to make some money betting on this match, make sure to read our match preview first!
Thanks to the fact that Russia is the host of the tournament, this team didn’t have to play in the qualifiers. Instead, they got a place in the tournament automatically. That said, we didn’t have an opportunity to see Russia playing non-friendly games for a long time.
Truth be told, they did take part at the Confederations Cup last year but failed to do very well. They lost two out of three matches they played. Still, they did play a number of friendlies to get ready for the World Cup. But, even those games didn’t show too much. We saw them losing three out of four friendlies in 2018.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Russia are underdogs in this game. On the contrary, they’re the host nation and will have superb support from the stands. It’s fair to assume that a big majority of more than 80 thousand spectators at Luzhniki will be supporting Russia this Thursday.
Another reason why Russia are expected to do well in the World Cup opener is that they do have a pretty decent squad. You might not be familiar with these players as most of them play in Russian Premier League, which isn’t too popular around the globe. Actually, only two players from Russia’s entire squad play in clubs outside this country.
Russia’s key player and fans’ favorite is Fedor Smolov, an attacker playing for Krasnodar, who finished the last season as the 2nd-most prolific scorer in the Russian Premier League. Still, Russia’s main strength is their defense, commanded by their captain, legendary CSKA goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev.
Saudi Arabia national team is perhaps even a bigger mystery than Russia, as most of their players play in clubs from Middle Eastern countries. Actually, 20 out of 23 Saudi players play in clubs from Saudi Arabia, mostly in Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli.
This team booked their ticket at the big tournament by doing well in the qualifiers. They played in the Asian part of the qualification and finished their campaign at the 2nd spot in the group, losing only one game along the way.
However, a fairly good form in the qualification doesn’t mean Saudi Arabia are expected to do well at the World Cup. Actually, they’re the biggest underdog in their group and they’re expected to finish their World Cup adventure on the bottom. This actually isn’t a big surprise, considering that they are in the same group as Russia, but also Uruguay and Egypt.
Akinfeev – Ignashevich, Granat, Kudryashov – Dzagoev, Golovin, Gazinsky, Samedov, Zhirkov – Smolov, Dzuba
Al Mosailem – Hawsawi, Al-Harbi, Al-Breik, Al-Shahrani – Al-Jassim, Al-Khaibri, Al-Dawsari, Al-Shehri, Al-Faraj – Al-Sahlawi
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia Match Prediction
It would be a real disaster if Russia lost this match. It’s not just because it’s the World Cup opener played in front of a huge number of their fans, but also because points from this game could prove decisive for whether they’ll get to the knockout stage or not.
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia Betting Tips
- Russia @1.44 (bet365)