1,432 days since Germany became World Champions, we are now about to get the 2018 FIFA World Cup underway in Moscow as tournament hosts, Russia host Saudi Arabia in the opening match. 

 

Team news

Russia have brought 38 year-old defender, Sergei Ignashevich out of international retirement after defensive injuries left them in crisis. 

Saudi Arabia meanwhile have a fully fit squad with a selection decision regarding who starts front, having rotated Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and Muhannad Assiri during recent friendlies. 

 

Form

Russia enter this match in worrying form with a no wins in any of last five friendlies, despite drawing against Turkey last time out. 

During that time, they have scored five and conceded 11 goals despite picking up a little pattern. 

Saudi Arabia meanwhile have played nine friendly matches this year, avoiding defeat in four of them (W3 D1). 

After posting a pair of 2-0 wins over Algeria and Greece, the Arabs however are winless in their last three despite losing two of those defeats being 2-1 results against European giants in Italy and Germany respectively. 

 

Stat Attack

  • There has been just one meeting between these teams, with Saudi Arabia winning 4-2 in a friendly in 1993. 
  • In their last five games, Russia have scored in the three odd numbered games whilst failing to do so in second and fourth games. 
  • Saudi Arabia have a (W3 D1 L5) record from their last eight meetings with European opposition. 
  • In last three World Cup openers, the hosts haven’t suffered opening game defeats with Germany and Brazil both winning theirs whilst South Africa in 2010 drew 1-1 with Mexico. 
  • The last time that a World Cup opening match finished 0-0 was in 1978 between West Germany and Poland, back when host country didn’t automatically open the tournament by playing in first match. 

 

Prediction

Both teams don’t seem to be in the strongest form at present so this will either be a damp squib of an opener or a thriller. 

Add in Saudi Arabia’s recent record against European teams and I am leaning towards a draw here. 

Prediction: Russia 1-1 Saudi Arabia

 

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