After what feels like an eternity, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will kick off in Russia on Thursday, June 14. A total of 32 teams will be looking to get their hands on the trophy, although the harsh reality is that probably only a handful of the number have a legitimate shot. Every team goes into the World Cup with certain expectations heaped on them. Teams like Brazil and Germany are always expected to win, while the host nation probably has more pressure than most. The home team is always caught between wanting to entertain their home fans and doing what needs to be done to get the result. This time around, it will be Russia who will be hosting, and they will get the tournament started on Thursday against Saudi Arabia, the only game on the schedule on the opening day. This is a group that Russia have a shot at getting out of, but if they are to progress, you feel that they need a nerves-settling win in Matchday 1 in Group A. Will they get it, though, or will the Saudis silence the home fans?

Game Information

🏆: #FIFAWorldCup
⚽: Russia Vs Saudi Arabia (Group Stage, Group A, Matchday 1 of 3)
🏟️: Luzhniki Stadium
⏰: Thursday, June 14 at 11 AM EST
📺: FOXSports
🎰: Russia -1, -1½ +105 | -217 | U 2, 2½ -120

2018 FIFA World Cup: Expert Pick to Win Group A

Why bet on Russia

While there is a definite advantage to playing host to a World Cup, there are also some drawbacks. The biggest negative is that this team has not had to play as many competitive games as the other teams in the tournament. There is an edge that can be had from having a successful qualifying campaign, as it can help create a winning mentality and allow a team to gel. Russia did get a little warm-up last summer when they hosted the Confederations Cup, but they looked like a team not good enough to compete with the best in that tournament. They have had a year to get things right, though, and the expectation is that they will come out and win the opener. Anything less than that would be an unmitigated disaster.

FIFA World Cup Russia Vs Saudi Arabia 1


Why bet on Saudi Arabia

With the Russians feeling as though they need to go out and attack from the off, they could end up playing into the hands of Saudi Arabia, who are at their best when they hit the counter-attack. It’s never really a good idea to look at friendlies as the true mark of what a team can offer, but the Saudis need to be pleased with how they handled themselves in their last warm-up game against Germany. After going down 2-0, they continued to battle and came within a hair of tying it up 2-2 at the end. A 1-goal loss to the world champions is certainly nothing to be ashamed about. The man of Russia will need to keep an eye on is Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, who scored 16 goals in qualifying. If the Saudis are to spring the upset here, it is he who may need to deliver the goods.

The man of Russia will need to keep an eye on is Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

FIFA World Cup Russia Vs Saudi Arabia 2

Expert Pick and Final Score Prediction

It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia are ahead of Russia in the FIFA rankings, so we should perhaps not refer to them as huge underdogs here. I think the pressure gets to the hosts, and I am taking the Saudis to win.

Predicted Score: Russia 2 Saudi Arabia 1

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