Russia vs Saudi Arabia
Competition: 2018 World Cup finals
Date: 14 June 2018
Kick-off: 17:00 CET
The day has finally come… The Russians started preparing, at least mentally, for these finals earlier than anyone else, as they became the first ones to “qualify”, the day their country was chosen to host the games. After years of preparations and failures in other competitions’ qualifiers, someone would expect them to be ready for some of the most important games of their history; they’re not. Their results in most friendly games, and their performance in those, leave very little space for optimism. What… boosts their chances of starting on the right foot, is that the team they are hosting is one of the weakest in these finals. A positive result and a decent performance in this game, and the whole atmosphere surrounding the Russian national team could change. Something over a week ago, in their last friendly game, they drew 1-1 with Turkey. Before that, they had lost three games in a row, but had also managed a crazy 3-3 draw with Spain, back in November. Will they look enthusiastic, more than anything else? Will they… break under pressure? Only after kick-off we’ll know. Most probably, they will start the game with Akinfeev, Granat, Ignashevich, Kurdryashov, Fernandes, Golovin, Erkohin, Dzagoev, Zhirkov, Miranchuk and Smolov.
Saudi Arabia and Panama are the least probable winners of the World Cup finals, according to betting companies. If you bet a euro/dollar/pound sterling on them today, and they perform one of the biggest miracles in world football history, you’ll get back a thousand. One thing the Saudis have going for them in this game, is that the pressure is on Russia. Saudi Arabia have… done their “duty”, they qualified for the finals without needing playoffs, they have done the absolute minimum, they have “delivered” on what was expected from them. Anything they manage to earn in Russia, will be a very welcome bonus. They played five friendly games in May and June. First, they beat Algeria and Greece (2-0, both), and then lost to Italy, Peru, and Germany. Online, you’ll find flattering comments about them for having lost by only one goal to Italy and Germany. Do keep in mind though, that in both games they scored late, with the score already at 2-0 for their opponents. As for that 0-3 to Peru, their weaknesses were… majestically exposed by the South Americans. Saudi Arabia are expected to start the game with Al-Muaiouf, Al-Burayk, Al-Boleahi, Hawsawi, Al-Harbi, Al-Faraj, Ali-Khaibari, Kanno, Al-Jassim, Al-Shehri and Al-Sahlawi.
Previous five matches:
Russia vs Turkey 1-1
Austria vs Russia 1-0
Russia vs France 1-3
Russia vs Brazil 0-3
Russia vs Spain 3-3
Germany vs Saudi Arabia 2-1
Saudi Arabia vs Peru 0-3
Italy vs Saudi Arabia 2-1
Saudi Arabia vs Greece 2-0
Saudi Arabia vs Algeria 2-0
Russia’s next game is on Tuesday against Egypt. A day later, Saudi Arabia will be facing Uruguay.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Head to head Stats
Russia and Saudi Arabia have met just once before, in 1993. It was a friendly game, held on Saudi Arabian soil. Russia lost that game, 4-2.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Prediction
Russia are considered huge favorites to win the game. They haven’t won any of their last seven, but deep down I do expect them to – somehow – win this one. Having written that, I wouldn’t bet on their 1.44, it’s just not worth the risk, I reckon.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Betting Tips
I have a 1-0 hunch, so “Russia to win and keep a clean sheet” is my top choice, at 1.95, with “Russia and under 2.5 goals”, at 2.70, looking riskier, but paying much better. “Under 2.5 goals” alone pays 1.62, and saves you from worrying about winners and losers.