Group A: Russia vs Saudi Arabia - soccer world cup Preview

Two players compete for ball

Our football scribe previews the opening soccer world cup match, which takes place on Thursday the 14th of June 2018.

The soccer world cup will get underway on Thursday when host nation Russia face Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia | Thursday 14 June | Luzhniki Stadium (17:00)

To Win Match
Russia 4/10
Draw 31/10
Saudi Arabia 7/1

*Please note that this preview was compiled before pre-tournament friendlies were played. 

Russia will be desperate to improve their poor recent record at major tournaments. They have not won a match since Euro 2012 and, since the break up of the Soviet Union, they’ve never been past the group stages in three soccer world cup appearances.

Having qualified as hosts, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side were deprived of competitive games in the run-up to the event, with their last meaningful action coming at the 2017 Confederations Cup, where they bowed out at the group stage.

The Russians will be desperate not to join South Africa as the only host country to be eliminated after just three matches. Cherchesov’s side will be eager to make their mark earlier in the competition and anything but a win will be a disaster for the hosts as they head into this match firm favourites.

Leading up to the soccer world cup, Russia played some high-profile friendlies. In their last five warm-up matches. The hosts were thrashed by Brazil and France this year and in 2017 lost to Argentina by an 86th-minute Sergio Aguero goal. Cherchesov’s side failed to beat Iran, drawing 1-1 but they did well to earn a 3-3 draw with Spain.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia failed to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 soccer world cups but emerged from the wilderness and booked their ticket to Russia 2018 after finishing ahead of Australia in their qualifying group. This is their fifth soccer world cup appearance and their first since Germany 2006.

Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly be the favourites to finish last in the group. However, after a solid run in qualification, they can’t be ruled out. The Saudis also defeated some very solid teams on their road to Russia, winning back-to-back friendlies in May against Algeria and Greece.

The Green Falcons will be hoping to replicate their success at USA ‘94 where they reached the last-16. They’ve been eliminated in the group phase of the competition on each occasion since. The Saudis may not be a powerhouse, but Juan Antonio Pizzi is a good coach and will have them ready. The Argentinean led Chile to the 2016 Copa America title.

Verdict: Double Chance & Total – HomeDraw/Under 2.5 (8/10)
The opening game of the tournament might not be an exciting one. Russia are expected to win, but I’m not confident and they’re too short at 3/10. Back the hosts on the Win/Draw Double Chance & Under 2.5 Goals at 15/20.