Home Fifa World Cup - Russia 2018 World Cup opener Build up: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

World Cup opener Build up: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

TEAM NEWS

Russia has brought 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich out of international retirement because of a number of defensive injuries and he is expected to start.

Starman Aleksandr Kokorin misses this tournament with a knee injury so their most likely match-winner is striker Fedor Smolov.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi faces a selection dilemma up front. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and Muhannad Assiri both rotated in the warm-up friendlies.

Russia Saudi Arabia

AN INAUSPICIOUS OPENER?

The opening World Cup game features the two sides ranked the lowest in the competition. Partly due to a lack of competitive matches, tournament hosts Russia has slipped to 70th in Fifa’s rankings, three places lower than Thursday’s opponents.

The respective form of each side is befitting of their rank. Russia is without a win in seven matches, a run stretching back to October, while Saudi Arabia comes into the game off the back of successive friendly losses to Italy, Peru and Germany.

Saudi Arabia cannot draw on a strong World Cup pedigree either. This is their first appearance since 2006 and in their last three tournaments they have lost seven and drawn two of their nine group games.

The World Cup hosts have never been beaten in the opening match. If Russia does lose then not only will they set a tournament first, but qualification for the last 16 would appear unlikely.

LAWRO’S PREDICTION

Russia are not a particularly good side, but then neither are Saudi Arabia, and I think home advantage will see them through this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Source: BBC News

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