The wait is finally over and the biggest football festival in the globe kick starts on Thursday with host nation Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Match Preview
The hosts are tipped as heavy favorites, but both teams come on the background of terrible runs. The Russians especially are without a win in the calendar year 2018 and their last win date back to October 2017. Their current run is a 7 games win-less with 3 draws and 4 losses.
There are fear among the home fans that their team may not go past the tricky group that includes a strong Uruguay and Egypt. To make things worse, Stanislav Cherchesov has the worst win ratio as a Russian national team head-coach, 26.31% since he took charge in 2016. The next worse is hold by Russia Georgi Yartsev, who saw a 42.11% win ratio during his tenure between 2003 and 2005.
Saudi Arabia on the other hand, are having problems at the management. The former Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is the third head-coach in the space of 10 months and he got little time to settle with the squad. The match against Russia on Thursday will be his 10th game in charge and is yet to find his best formation and starting eleven.
As a manager, Pizzi managed just 3 wins from the 9 games in charge, drew 1 and lost 5 in the process. Their defense has been all around the place during the period, conceding 16 goals in the process.
The other two teams in Group A, Egypt and Uruguay lock horns at the Yekaterinburg Arena in first of the three World Cup matches on Friday, 15th June 2018.
Russia Team News
Stanislav Cherchesov is still unsure about his best starting eleven. However, we feel that he will make his selection for the tournament opener based on form and reputation.
It is worth to note that Aleksandr Kokorin is not a part of the team, who is sidelined with the anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up against RB Leipzig in the Europa League game on March 2018. His absence is a huge blow to the team in finding goals in tough situations.
Russia Predicted Starting Line-up (3-5-2)
Igor Akinfeev – Ignashevich, Smolnikov, Vasin – Samedov, Dzagoev, Golovin, Yerokhin, Zhirkov – Smolov, Dzyuba.
Saudi Arabia Team News
Juan Antonio Pizzi has been experimenting a whole lot with the starting eleven in the friendlies. But he is expected to get back to the experienced players here.
The national team highest goal scorer Mohammad Al-Sahlawi is one of the players overlooked in most of the friendlies. He could get his name of the starting eleven as the lone striker at the expense of the ineffective Muhannad Assiri.
Saudi Arabia Predicted Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1)
Al-Mayouf – Al-Harbi, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani – Al-Faraj, Al-Khaibri – Al-Shehri, Al-Dawsari, Al-Jassim – Mohammad Al-Sahlawi.