The FIFA World Cup will begin with hosts Russia facing Saudi Arabia in a game that will have the eyes of the world on it. After four years of waiting, the most prestigious competition in the sport begins and whilst this may not be a mouthwatering encounter, it’s a game that is vital for the home country.
They have been draw in Group A, alongisde Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And, the opening game presents Stanislav Cherchesov’s men with an ideal chance to get off to a good start against the weakest side in the group. Realistically, they know anything less than three points will make progressing a tough ask. Meanwhile, for Saudi Arabia, they know the pressure will be on the hosts who will be backed by an expectant, voiceferous home crowd.
Here we will give you our best Russia vs Saudi Arabia betting tips and look at who the key men could be.
Our Russia vs Saudi Arabia Prediction: Russia 2-0 Saudi Arabia
The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow will be packed out for the opener and whilst that will increase the pressure on Russia, it’s something the players should relish. It must be said that this is by no means an great Russian side though, in fact they are pretty poor compared to previous teams over the years. As hosts they haven’t had to qualify, meaning they won’t have played a competitive game in years, which is not going to help.
As well as that, results in friendlies have been very poor recently, with the country without a win in seven games. Their last victory came back in October, 2017. Nevertheless, they have superior players to Saudi Arabia who approach the tournament as one of the lowest ranked sides by FIFA. A recent 3-0 friendly defeat to Peru highlighted their issues defensively and Russia will hope to exploit that.
Our recommended tip – Russia -1
We don’t think the first game of the tournament will be a classic and Russia may have to be patient as they look to break down Saudi Arabia but ultimately the quality should tell in front of their own fans.
There is little value in backing Russia to win, however backing Russia -1, which means you need them to win by two or more goals, is EVS with William Hill and should have a chance against the leaky Saudi Arabian defence.
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The two nations have only ever met once before, back in 1993 with Saudi Arabia winning the friendly game 4-2, so that will have little impact on their clash in the World Cup.
As mentioned, the two countries are not approaching the tournament in good form. Russia last played a competitive game in the Confederations Cup 12 months ago, where they won one and lost two of their three games. Since then, they have recorded just one win in eight, failing to win the last seven.
For Saudi Arabia, they have won just two of their last eight friendly games as they built up their preparation for the tournament.
Players to watch – Aleksandr Golovin & Alan Dzagoev
We have highlighted two Russian players to watch in the first game and they are two that have the potential to be matchwinners for the hosts.
The pair, who both play for CSKA Moscow, will have a real responsibility to be the creative forces in a Russia side that often lacks imagination and inspiration. Golovin and Dzagoev are fairly similar in the way they play, looking to commit defenders, driving with pace and purpose and importantly are very good on the ball. Whether it’s feeding a through ball to the strikers or taking a shot from the edge of the area, the magic from Russia will come from one of these players.
Saudi Arabia are sure to have a game plan that involves sitting deep and frustrating the hosts as they look to turn the crowd against them. Therefore, Russia will struggle to find gaps and space, which raises the importance for Dzagoev and Golovin. They will look to control the game from midfield and will be vital if the hosts are to get off to a strong start.