Russia vs Saudi Arabia World Cup Prediction, Betting Tips and Preview
Russia vs Saudi Arabia prediction, preview and betting tips for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. Thursday, 14th of June 2018, the whole football world will be focused over the opening ceremony at the “Luzhniki Stadium” in Russian capital Moscow, where the 2018 FIFA World Cup is set to kick-off with a clash between host nation Russia and Saudi Arabia. Both teams were drawn in Group A alongside Uruguay and Egypt, so the opening match will have additional tension as either side will fancy its chance to make it out of the group stage. Moreover, we have the two teams with worst positioning (Russia is 66th, while Saudi Arabia 67th) at the FIFA World Ranking among all 32 World Cup contenders.
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H2H (Head-to-head): Russia vs Saudi Arabia
Russia and Saudi Arabia have already met for a friendly match nearly twenty-five years ago. That happened on 6 October 1993, when both sides were already awaiting the 1994 World Cup to mark their debut on the greatest ever football stage. Russia as an independent country after the USSR collapse. The game took place in Riyadh (capital and most populous city of Saudi Arabia) where the hosts have won 4-2 with the goals of Khaled Messed (two goals), Hamza Idriss Falatah and Fahad Al Mehallel, while Aleksandr Mostovoi has scored twice for the Russians.
Russia Team Preview
Russia is the absolute favourite of all online bookies to win the 2018 World Cup opening match at home turf and one of the teams with good chances to finish on top of Group A, and to qualify for the Round of 16 respectively. Nevertheless, everything goes through a good beginning of their home campaign as the Russians simply can’t afford to slip up exactly against Saudi Arabia. The country invested billions of dollars in the competition and that happened in a very complicated geopolitical situation for Russia. The least that the country’s best footballers can do is to boost the national confidence with a remarkable performance and the Russian Football Union has set high expectations to Stanislav Cherchesov’s men. Indeed, Cherchesov was appointed as head coach of the Russia national team with a target of reaching the semi-finals, whether you believe it or not.
The lack of competitive games in the past two years, except the 2017 Confederations Cup where Russia failed to impress, can be a major weakness of Sbornaya. We really haven’t seen an impressive display by the Russians since a 4-2 win over South Korea in October 2017, which has been followed by two draws and four defeats in the next six friendlies. One of those was a 3-3 draw against Spain, which was well-received by the football community, especially when we consider that Spain took a 2-0 lead in that game. The most recent disappointment came in end of May when Russia lost 0-1 to Austria and Stanislav Cherchesov must announce his final 23-men squad before the last friendly against Turkey on 5th of June.
Russia’s Key Players: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Aleksey Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow) and Fedor Smolov (FC Krasnodar)
The vast majority of Russian players compete in the Russian Premier League. Two of them had crucial influence over the aforementioned comeback against Spain, with the likes of Aleksey Miranchuk and Fedor Smolov being under the spotlight for Russia. Smolov scored twice in that game while Miranchuk scored the second goal and assisted for the first goal of Smolov, which saw them as the best players for Russia in this match. Moreover, Aleksey Miranchuk and Smolov are expected to lead Russia’s attacking line not only against Saudi Arabia, especially with the absence of Aleksandr Kokorin who will miss out the World Cup (anterior cruciate ligament injury).
Miranchuk scored seven goals to help his Lokomotiv Moscow winning the league for the first time since 2004 and he shows obvious progress in the last year. His attacking partner Fedor Smolov became the Russian player with most goals scored in the league (14) but he also holds six assists on his personal account.
Aleksey Miranchuk and Fedor Smolov must receive proper support from midfield where the experienced CSKA Moscow midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who missed the Euro 2016 finals with injury, should help of his less experienced partners Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksandr Erokhin, who are all expected to operate in central midfield. In the meantime, two other experienced players like Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Samedov will most likely start on both wings of the Russian 3-5-2.
Saudi Arabia Team Preview
Saudi Arabia is not only an underdog in the World Cup opening match in Moscow, but to win Group A as well. Consequently the Saudis are one of the main tournament underdogs as the bookies don’t give them much chances to accomplish something memorable in Russia this summer. In fact, Saudi Arabia yet waits to win a match at the FIFA World Cup since a 1-0 victory over Belgium in 1994, when Said Al Owayran successfully materialized his magnificent individual effort.
Twenty four years after the World Cup in the United States, the Green Falcons are set for their fifth World Cup appearance and first one since 2006. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia have failed to win any of their last 10 World Cup fixtures, losing 8 of them. The only positives within that poor run were a 2-2 draw against South Africa at France 1998, as well as another 2-2 draw vs Tunisia at Germany 2006. However, Saudi Arabia finished in the last place in their groups during the last three World Cups in which they participated (1998, 2002 and 2006). Some of you probably remember the 0-8 defeat to Germany at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002, which happened in their first match there. They have also lost their opening games (3 out of 4 in overall) in 1994 (1-2 vs the Netherlands) and in 1998 (0-1 vs Denmark), but have won a point against Tunisia in 2006.
This time the squad led by Juan Antonio Pizzi will be keen to avoid worst possible scenario and to spoil the opening party of the Russians. The Saudis showed they can score in the pre-World Cup friendlies, mostly in the 2-0 wins over Greece and Algeria in May, as well as in the 1-2 defeat to Italy.
Saudi Arabia’s Key Players: Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes), Taisir Al-Jassim (Al-Ahli) and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr)
Likewise Russia, the vast majority of players called up in the Saudi Arabia national football team play in the domestic league. Anyway, there are three players who were loaned at several Spanish La Liga clubs where they had to gain experience prior to the World Cup. The 27 years old winger and attacking midfielder of Leganes, Yahya Al-Shehri, is one from them. He is expected to return at his parent club Al-Nassr right after the World Cup, but he can surely use the tournament in Russia to introduce himself on the international scene. Same thing is not valid for the two other highlighted players – midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim (33) and top scorer Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (31), who scored 16 goals in 14 qualifying games. On the other hand, Al-Jassim, who will turn 34 years in July, is the second most capped player in current selection with 130+ matches. Only the captain and main central defender of Saudi Arabia, Osama Hawsawi, has more international caps than Al-Jassim.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Prediction and Betting Tips
The huge expectations and pressure over the Russians may be a heavy burden on their shoulders, but we believe that “Sbornaya” has enough potential to deal with the Saudis, especially at home soil. Anyway, we also reckon that Saudi Arabia can take advantage of its massive underdog status and can upset the hosts by scoring a goal in their net.
We fancy the juicy value on “Russia to win and Both teams to score” – we won’t be surprised if Russia beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 or 3-1.
If Russia really wants to make it out of the World Cup group stage for the first time as an independent country, then nothing else but a win would do the work for “Sbornaya”. However, their defense looks shaky enough and that’s the biggest issue for the Russians. They must try to score more than their opposition does.
Possible Lineups of Russia and Saudi Arabia
Venue: “Luzhniki Stadium”, Moscow.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev (c) – Fedor Kudryashov, Sergey Ignashevich, Vladimir Granat – Yuri Zhirkov, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksandr Erokhin, Aleksandr Samedov – Aleksey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov. (3-5-2)
Saudi Arabia: Yasser Al Mosailem – Mansoor Al-Harbi, Osama Hawsawi (c), Omar Hawsawi, Yasir Al-Shahrani – Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf – Salem Al-Dawsari, Taisir Al-Jassim, Yahya Al-Shehri – Mohammad Al-Sahlawi. (4-2-3-1)