The hosts kick off World Cup 2018 with a distinctly winnable tie against Saudi Arabia, so can Russia get their campaign off to the best possible start, or can the Saudis upset the party?
Here are our Russia vs Saudi Arabia betting tips:
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Match Winner Betting
Thursday June 14. It’s a day that millions have been waiting for.
World Cup 2018 finally kicks off with hosts Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia, and they will be expected to get their campaign off to the best possible start.
Of course, life doesn’t always work out as planned.
Cast your mind back to World Cup ’14 and you might just recall hosts Brazil going 0-1 down after just 11 minutes against Croatia, and while they managed to rally to a 3-1 win it’s an example of how things can go wrong for the home team when the pressure is on.
And, as we saw at the Confederations Cup last year, Russia struggled under the weight of expectation in hosting a big event.
Indeed, if we discount that Confederations Cup as an exercise of competitive football, we note that Russia haven’t played a serious game since the European Championships two years ago.
They have also played just two friendly games since March, drawing 1-1 with Turkey and losing 0-1 to Austria.
Is there a chance that the Russians head into World Cup 2018 undercooked? You’d better believe it.
Can the Saudis take advantage? This is a team that most followers of the beautiful game won’t know too much about, but they qualified for the World Cup ahead of Australia in the AFC sectional qualifying and that suggests they are reasonably capable.
They have prepared thoroughly for the tournament too, with four friendlies in the past month:
Saudi Arabia 2-0 Algeria
Saudi Arabia 2-0 Greece
Saudi Arabia 1-2 Italy
Saudi Arabia 0-3 Peru
Saudi Arabia 1-2 Germany
As you can see, the Peru game aside they can have confidence heading into the tournament opener.
The other fear for Russia is that their attacking talisman, Aleksandr Kokorin, is out of the tournament with injury, and so they will be relying on the old head of Alan Dzagoev to provide some much-needed spark.
One of the factors that has to be taken into consideration in any World Cup are the cultural differences that exist between countries, and it would be fair to say that playing in Moscow will be a new experience to this Saudi Arabia squad; 20 of their 23 players ply their club trade on Saudi soil.
Despite their lack of attacking bite, Russia have an experienced starting eleven and have to be favoured – just – to get the win. Take the odds of 11/25 (roughly 1.50 in European terms) on them to edge a narrow victory.
Side Market Betting
The bookmakers have been rather stingy with their odds for this encounter, and there is very little to tempt punters in here.
But what with this being the opening game of the competition, and Russia lacking quality preparation, we’re expecting a staccato, low key affair with minimal chances.
So, we’re taking the 31/50 (1.62) about Under 2.5 Goals.