RUSSIA v SAUDI ARABIA
Live on ITV. Thursday, June 14. Kick-off 4pm.
WORLD Cup 2018 is almost upon us and the excitement is at fever pitch but has there even been a less appetising opening match than this?
Let's be clear: Russia are absolutely honking and would be nowhere near this tournament if they weren't lucky enough to be hosting it. The only saving grace for them is Saudi Arabia aren't any better.
There is nothing to get excited about with this one so the obvious solution is to have a wee gamble on it to make it watchable.
FIFA world rankings are about as reliable as French air traffic controllers so the fact Russia are ranked 70th and Saudi Arabia slightly higher in 67th is interesting but it's not enough to convince me the 9-1 about the Saudis is generous.
I don't expect either of these teams to get out of a group that also contains Uruguay and Egypt although if Mo Salah isn't fit then the winner of this match would have an outside chance. The loser would be as well packing the bags and heading home.
The Russians haven't won any of their friendly warm-up matches with no win in 5 games. The Green Falcons of Saudi Arabia had two wins in May against Greece and Algeria which is fairly impressive and narrow 2-1 defeats to Italy and Germany are also pretty respectable.
The Saudis sit quite deep and try to hit opponents on the break and I think they can probably frustrate the Russians. They will be under pressure in front of a partisan home crowd who will be well aware this is their best chance of a win in the competition. A loss will not go down well in Moscow.
Realistically I see this one being tight because the Russians lack the creative type of player to break down the Saudi defence. It will likely come down to an individual error from the dreaded World Cup nerves.
The Saudi captain is their centre-half Osama Hawsawi who is likely to be their rock at the back. If they can hold on and keep a clean sheet I can see him being a value bet for man of the match.
- Under 2.5 goals (4-6, BetBright)
- Man of the Match – Osama Hawsawi (20-1, bet365)
Be careful with your bets, his partner at the back is Omar Hawsawi!
- No scorer (38-5, MarathonBet)
- Double Chance – Draw or Saudi Arabia
- Under 3 goals
- Under 9 Russian corners
- No red card in the match
- (5-1, bet365)