The World Cup will finally get underway on Thursday afternoon with Russia set to face Saudi Arabia at the
Stanislav Cherchesov's side, who qualified automatically for the tournament as hosts, have been handed a favourable draw, with Group A consisting of Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
A - Based on our World Cup predictor, Opta give Uruguay (59.1%) the best chance of progressing from Group A at the 2018 @FIFAWorldCup. Tenacity.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 12, 2018
For more info on the how the Opta Predictor is calculated, click here: https://t.co/O5yVz0Y0Zl#URU #EGY #RUS #KSA pic.twitter.com/iT8jx19Kow
Saudi Arabia qualified for their fifth World Cup as runners-up in Group B, finishing behind Japan but ahead of Australia on goal difference (although the Aussies did eventually qualify via the playoffs).
Both sides will fancy their chances of securing an early and vital three points on Thursday, in the first ever encounter between the two nations.
Recorded last six games
️We take a closer look at who will be key for @TeamRussia when the action kicks off in two days' time!— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 12, 2018
@smolovfedor_90 - second in the Russian top flight's scoring charts - is most certainly among them https://t.co/PwFInJ78j2 pic.twitter.com/jpxsn55WTq
Stanislav Cherchesov will be without two of his preferred centre backs in
Zenit St. Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin will also be missing from Russia's squad after he too tore a knee ligament back in March.
Saudi Arabia putting in the work ahead of facing Russia in the opening clash at the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/WRpqc42YJz— Goal (@goal) June 10, 2018
Saudi Arabia will be without one of their star players in
Saudi Arabia (4-2-3-1):
There's no pressure on the hosts to win the World Cup, but fans will be expecting to see at least one victory on home soil. A fast start is thus vital for Russia, not only to encourage support from the home crowd, but to also inspire some confidence in a team who hasn't won since June of last year.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, will be happy to sit back and attack on the counter. The Green Falcons have a host of pacy players who will look to exploit Russia's lack of pace in defence and midfield. That could work out if they take the lead.
Prediction: Russia 1-1 Saudi Arabia