Russia vs Saudi Arabia: The World’s biggest sporting extravaganza is back. The FIFA World Cup returns after 4 years and the tournament’s opener will see the home team Russia take on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. This will be Russia’s 11th participation at the World stage while Saudi Arabia return to the coveted tournament after 12 years. With Egypt and Uruguay the favourites to qualify from Group A, both Russia and Saudi Arabia will want to start off on a positive note. Russia(70) and Saudi Arabia(67) are the lowest ranked teams in the tournament. However, this is the grandest stage of them all for the grandest prize in the sports’ history. Russia vs Saudi Arabia brings plenty of excitement and also plenty of nerves. Who’s got the calmer head?
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS, RUSSIA vs SAUDI
The only encounter between these two sides was way back in 1993. Saudis won that game 4-2.
JOURNEY TO THE WORLD CUP 2018
Russia being the host nation received a direct entry. They didn’t have to participate in the qualifiers. With that being said, they’ve had a horrid run in the international friendlies. In the last 6 games, the host nation have lost 4 and drawn 2. For them to advance through to the round of 16, all departments have to work in tandem.
A total of 12 teams advanced to the second round of AFC qualifiers. The 12 teams were divided into two groups of 6 and the top two teams from each group qualified for the World Cup. Saudi Arabia finished second in Group B and acquired a World Cup berth. In the 10 games they played, the Arabs won 6, Lost 3 and drew 1. The Falcons did manage to register wins against Algeria and Greece, but they’ll be up against some quality opponents in the World Cup.
EXPECTED STARTING XI
Goal Keeper: Igor Akinfeev
Defenders: Mario Fernandes, Sergie Ignashevich, Ilya Kutepov, Vladimir Granat.
Midfielders: Roman Zobnin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev, Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksandr Samedov
Strikers: Fedor Smolov
Goal Keeper: Abdullah Al-Mayoof
Defenders: Yasir Al Shahrani, Osama Hawsawi, Oman Hawsawi, Mohammad Al-Burayk
Midfielders: Salman Al Faraj, Abdullah Ateef, Salem Al Dawsari, Taisser Al Jassam, Yahya Al Shehri
Strikers: Fahad Al Muwallad/Mohammad Al Sahlawi
STATS FOR RUSSIA vs SAUDI ARABIA
Russia’s only wins at the World Cup since independence were against African teams. 6-1 vs Cameroon in 1994 & 2-0 v Tunisia in 2002.
Saudi Arabia have not won any of their last 10 games at the World Cup. They’ve lost eight of them and have drawn 2. Their last win in the competition dates back to the group stages of the 1994 edition. A 1-0 victory against Belgium on 29th June 1994.
Oleg Salenko’s 5 goals against Cameroon in the 6-1 victory is still the only time a player has scored 5 goals in a World Cup game.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Aleksandr Golovin plays for CSKA Moscow in the Russian League and is a potential match winner in the midfield. His partnership in the midfield with Samedov and Smolov might prove effective for the Russian side.
In the 2017/18 season: Matches played: 27, Goals: 5, Assists: 4.
Fahad Al Muwallad provides the Falcons plenty of pace moving forward. Juan Antonio Pizzi has been experimenting with his team and he’s kept Mohammad Al Sahlawi on the sidelines in the recent games. Fahad has played for the Arabs 45 times and has scored 10 goals. His synergy with Al-Jassam will be the one to watch out for.
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