The 2018 World Cup kicks off tomorrow as hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia. Nile Post will have you covered for each game, all the important news and updates through the tournament.
One game for the Opening day of the world’s biggest Tournament; -not good enough for the fireworks as the world’s 70th ranked side takes on one of the pre-tournament under Dogs in a group that would leave so much to be desired.
Russia is up against South Americans, Uruguay, Egypt and tomorrow’s opponents, Saudi Arabia, in Group A. By FIFA Ranking, you would think they are way behind African Giants Egypt and Uruguay and by quick selection, it would be no mistake to go for Uruguay and Egypt. However, there’s always an element of surprise.
South Korea went against all odds to make it to the Semi-finals in 2002 and that shouldn’t be a surprise if Russia make it beyond expectation.
With Egypt left almost deflated with the absence of Mohamed Salah for the first few games, it now remains the task for the hosts to make that moment count. But this will be important in judging the Pharaoh’s feat at the Tournament they last played at in 1990.
Uruguay without doubt are the outright favorites to top the group, but then the contest between Russia and Egypt for who finishes second will be interesting to watch hoping ruling out Saudi Arabia won’t be a big mistake.
Back in 2002, the Arabians were put to an 8-0 first match humiliation by eventual finalists German, at least that I can recall. For that, I fear another tough tournament for this team who are led by Juan Antonio Pizzi, who failed Chile in at the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers (who had a better squad). Did they take any lessons from their past? We’ll see if they can prove me wrong.
A dream draw it could have been for the Hosts, but the pressure may become too much for the hosts if they if they can’t find a way past Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Russia made no effort in qualifying and following a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, that could be their biggest unmaking and certainly it gives me a thinking that there’s no reason for the AFC qualifiers to fear their opening day challengers.
Mario Fernandes should come first ahead of Igor Smolnikov at right-back, but Sergei Ignashevich’s could be the weakness in the defensive fold should he go first against Salem Al-Dawsari and Fahad Al-Mullawad who are a bigger challenge for pace for the 38-year old.
Losing Star man Nawaf Al-Abed to injury leavers the World Cup minnows with a big creative void. However, their they should can still kill it off if they can sit deep and go for the counter.
There is very little to separate the two sides as things stand and from the other end, it looks like the Green Falcons were literally undone by the latest injury to Nawaf Al-Abed. With Russia falling with a few towards the Tournament, it would have been a different story all together. Expect an underwhelming opener to the tournament.
Prediction: Russia 1-1 Saudi Arabia.
Russia: Igor Akifeev – Mario Fernandes, Vladmir Granat, Sergei Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov –Roman Zobnin – Aleksandr Samedov, Aleksandr Golovin, Daler Kuzyaev, Yuri Zhirkov – Fedor Smolov
Saudi Arabia: Abdullah Al-Mayoof – Mohammed Al-Burayk, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawaswi, Yasir Al Shahrani – Abdullah Ateef, Salman Al Faraj – Abdullah Ateef, Yahya Al Shehri, Taiseer AL Jassam, Salem AL Dawsari – Fahad AL Muwallad