About Russia vs Saudi Arabia Match
World Cup 2018 hosts Russia take on the lowest-ranked qualifier for the tournament, Saudi Arabia, in the opening game of the tournament at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. It is the first time since 1993 the two countries will have played each other, and their first meeting at a major tournament. The two teams are in Group A, alongside Uruguay and Egypt, with Saudi Arabia having qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 (Russia, of course, automatically qualified as hosts).
The match takes place on Thursday June 14, and kicks off at 8pm GMT.
Top Bets for RUS vs KSA Match
Half Time/Full Time Russia - Russia
First Team to Score Saudi Arabia
Fedor Smolov to Score Anytime and Russia 1-0
Russia Team News, Updates, and Facts
Russia Team News
Though Russian team experimented with four at the back in their friendly defeat to Austria, Russia have tended to favour a back three with two wing-backs. The system used for the draw with Turkey last time out - lining up in a 3-4-2-1 formation - is likely to mirror that which will be used for Thursday’s Group A opener. Goalscorer Alexander Samedov started that game, and looks to have moved ahead of Manuel Fernandes in the right wing-back slot.
Russia Key Players
Alan Dzagoev missed the last two major international tournaments through injury, but the Russian playmaker is back and will be key to their attacking hopes. With Aleksandr Kokorin missing the tournament through injury, Fyodor Smolov leads the line - the Krasnodar striker was the top Russian goalscorer in last season’s Russian Premier League.
Russia Team Form
Russia are without a win in their last seven matches and, since beating New Zealand in the opening game of last summer's Confederations Cup, they have won just one of their ten matches since. In fairness to Russia, their friendlies have been against high-profile opposition, however - conceding three goals apiece in a high-scoring draw with Spain in November and subsequent defeats to Brazil (0-3) and France (1-3) in March. Their two pre-tournament friendlies also ended in disappointment, however - a 1-0 loss against Austria and then, last time out, a 1-1 draw with Turkey despite Alexander Samedov scoring only Russia’s second goal in their last four games.
Russia Predicted Starting Line up
Expected Line up: 3-4-2-1
Russia likely XI
Defenders:Igor Smolnikov, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich
Defensive Midfielders:Aleksandr Samedov, Aleksei Miranchuk, Yury Gazinsky, Yuri Zhirkov
Attacking Midfielders:Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin
Saudi Arabia Team News, Updates, and Facts
Saudi Arabia Team News
Saudi Arabia team abandoned their usual 4-2-3-1 formation in their final pre-tournament friendly - a credible 2-1 defeat to defending World Cup champions Germany - but they are likely to revert to their usual system against Russia. Concerns over the fitness of Yahya Al-Shehri, Salem Al-Dawsari and Fahad Al-Muwallad look to have been wide of the mark – despite their La Liga loans ending with none starting a single match in the Spanish top flight – as all three have got up to match speed thanks to Saudi Arabia's heavy pre-tournament schedule. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s biggest selection decision is likely to be which combination of forwards to select. Mohammad Al-Sahlawi was joint top-goalscorer in World Cup qualifying with Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, but it was Al-Muwallad who led the line against Germany.
Saudi Arabia Key Players
Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scored 16 goals in World Cup qualifying and the Al-Nassr striker has 28 goals in 40 international appearances in total. La Liga loanees Yahya Al-Shehri, Salem Al-Dawsari and Fahad Al-Muwallad were selected to head to Spain thanks to their potential - the former two have both scored in Saudi Arabia’s World Cup warm-up matches.
Saudi Arabia Team Form
Saudi Arabia lost their last three pre-tournament friendlies, having previously beaten both Algeria and Greece 2-0 during their training camp in Spain. Both of those wins were outside of the FIFA fixture calendar, and since then Saudi Arabia have lost 2-1 to Italy - Yahya Al-Shehri having pulled a goal back – 3-0 to resurgent Peru and then, last time out, 2-1 to defending World Cup champions Germany. Taisir Al-Jassim scored their goal in Germany to give the hosts a late scare, following in after Mohammad Al-Sahlawi’s penalty was saved.
Saudi Arabia Predicted Starting Line up
Expected Line up:(4-2-3-1)
Saudi Arabia likely XI
Defenders:Yasir Al-Shahrani, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Mansour Al-Harbi
Midfielders:Abdullah Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj
Attacking Midfielders:Yahya Al-Shehri, Taisir Al-Jassim, Salem Al-Dawsari
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Head-to-Head Stats
Russia and Saudi Arabia have only met once before, in a friendly in 1993 which the Russians won 4-2. Russia’s last international friendly against Asian opponents was a 1-1 draw against Iran in October after a 4-2 defeat of South Korea. Against European opponents, Saudi Arabia have lost each of their last two matches 2-1 – away to Italy and, most recently, Germany.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Stats
Russia have won just one of their last ten matches, but that victory was against Asian opponents - beating South Korea 4-2 at home
Saudi Arabia have lost their last three pre-tournament friendlies, with their only wins coming outside of the FIFA international window during a training camp in Spain last month
The host nation have never lost their opening match at a World Cup in the tournament's history
Saudi Arabia failed to win a single game at any of their last three World Cups - though they did not even qualify for the last two
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Betting Tips
Hosts Russia could not have asked for a more favourable game to start their 2018 World Cup campaign on home soil – facing the lowest-ranked qualifiers for the tournament in Moscow.
Make no mistake, Russia are in poor form and could struggle to get out of Group A, but it would still be a big shock if they were to lose the opening match against Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia proved they will not be pushovers in credible friendly defeats to Italy and Germany, but a 3-0 defeat to Peru in between means they head into the tournament on the back of three straight losses themselves.
Juan Antonio Pizzi has an interesting blend of upcoming players and experienced heads, but after the recent loan experiment to La Liga clubs backfired – with three key players getting no competitive football in the six months before the World Cup – much of their experience comes from the Saudi domestic league.
The effect of that has been clear at their last three World Cups – failing to win a game in France, Japan/Korea or Germany before not even qualifying for the last two tournaments.
Saudi Arabia also conceded 26 goals in their nine previous World Cup matches – they are not expected to challenge Russia in Group A, and the hosts – despite their own problems – should expect nothing less than a win.
If Russia need some positives, Fyodor Smolov’s form in the Russian Premier League and the availability of Alan Dzagoev after missing two consecutive tournaments through injury should provide some.
The former can help counter the loss of Aleksandr Kokorin up front, and the Russian Premier League’s top Russian goalscorer could be in with a shout of the 2018 World Cup’s first goal.
Whoever scores, however, if Russia are to have any chance of progressing from Group A they will need to open the tournament with a win. Saudi Arabia did well in friendlies against Italy and Germany, and may push Russia all the way, but the hosts are big favourites for a reason.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Recommended bets with odds
Russia are odds-on favourites to kick off their home World Cup with a win against Saudi Arabia, with Bet365, Betway, 888sport and Betfair all pricing the hosts at 4/9 to win in Moscow.
Saudi Arabia, by contrast, are a best price of 10/1 with Paddy Power, which reflects just how big a shock it would be if they secured their first World Cup finals win since 1994.
That said, they scored in both their recent defeats to Italy and Germany, while Russia’s poor form should not be fully discounted. Both teams to score in Moscow has been set at 13/8 by Paddy Power. Ladbrokes’ odds improve to 10/3 when combined with a Russia win.
In front of their home fans, Russia will hope to provide the tournament’s first goal to ease any nerves, meanwhile. Striker Fyodor Smolov - the top Russian goalscorer in last season’s Russian Premier League – is a best price of 3/1 with Bet365 to provide that goal.
Opening games at the World Cup are usually nervy affairs, particularly for the host nation as they bid to get the tournament underway in style. It is little surprise to see Bet365 and Betfair offering 4/6 on under 2.5 goals being scored. That said, however, there have been three goals in each of Saudi Arabia’s last three friendly defeats. Over 2.5 goals is 5/4 with Betfair and Ladbrokes.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Top three bets
1) Russia to win and both teams to score at 10/3 with Ladbrokes
2) Total goals Over 2.5 at 5/4 with Betfair
3) Fyodor Smolov first goalscorer at 3/1 with Bet365
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Prediction
Russia are without a win in seven matches, but Saudi Arabia have lost their last three games too. The hosts have simply got to start the 2018 World Cup with a win if they want to progress in the tournament, and it would be a big surprise if they did not – even if Saudi Arabia’s form against Italy and Germany suggests they will push Russia all the way.
Correct score prediction: Russia 2-1 Saudi Arabia
Correct score best odds: 17/2 (888sports)