The much-anticipated World Cup is set to begin with the opening clash between Russia and Saudi Arabia that will be played at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow on June 14th. The Russians are labeled as strong favorites by Delaware Park Sportsbook and although they didn’t record a victory for quite some time now, it would be surprising if they don’t start with three points.
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia
Three-Way: 1: Russia -227; X: +340 Draw; 2: Saudi Arabia +900
Spread -1: Russia -139; Saudi Arabia +106
Total 2.5 goals: Over +120; Under -156
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The road to the World Cup
The FIFA lowest-ranked sides at this World Cup will face each other in the first game, and Russia (70th) only got a place in the top pot because of the fact that they are hosting the tournament, otherwise, it would be difficult for them to even reach the finals. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia (67th) is one of the weakest teams in the competition and surely the biggest underdog in the Group A.
Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia qualified for the World Cup three times but never advanced to the Round of 16. This will be the Green Falcons’ fifth WC and the only time they made it out of the group was in the USA in 1994.
Russia gained match fitness through friendly internationals and the last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup but didn’t have the best of times as the Sbornaya failed to win any of their previous seven games, including losses to Argentina, Brazil, and France in the process. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side is also not playing well at home as they won three games out of the last 14 (W3, D5, L6).
Saudi Arabia comes into this game after a tight 2-1 defeat to Germany, their third loss in a row. Away form is a concern for the Green Falcons as they have recorded just one victory (over Kuwait) in the last eleven matches (W1, D2, L8).
Players to watch
The Russians will rely on their No. 9 Alan Dzagoev, who actually operates more like the classic No. 10, and every attacking play will likely go through his feet. CSKA Moscow playmaker is searching for his tenth goal for the national side as only Fyodor Smolov (12) and ArtemDzyuba (11) scored more.
Mohammad Al-Sahlawi will pose the biggest danger to Igor Akinfeev and the Saudi star has an excellent goalscoring record for the National team as he scored even 28 goals in 40 caps, while 16 of them came in the qualification phase, which was enough for the leading place in the Asian continent.
- Russia allowed in each of their last nine games
- Russia conceded in 11 out of the previous 12 games at home
- Saudi Arabia‘s last ten games produced over 1.5 goals
- At least a goal have been seen in the first half in each out of Saudi Arabia’s last nine games
The odds on the Russians were bit higher a few days ago, but even now, I wouldn’t recommend playing on them at -227, and considering their poor displays lately and inefficiency, I believe the visitors will not be beaten by more than one goal margin.
The Pick: AH +1 Saudi Arabia (+106)