Phakaaathi Reporter
1 minute read
14 Jun 2018
2:14 pm

Preview: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Phakaaathi Reporter

Hosts Russia will hope to begin their World Cup 2018 campaign with a Group A victory over Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Russia's forward Fedor Smolov chats with assistant coach Miroslav Romaschenko (R) during a training session at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 13, 2018 ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup opening football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV

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Russia are not viewed as the strongest team to host football’s showpiece international tournament but Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will still be expected to make the most of home advantage and at least begin with a win in the competition’s curtain raiser in Moscow.

After crashing out at the group stage at both the World Cup in Brazil four years ago and at Euro 2016, Russia will be looking to make the knockout stage this year, even if the other two sides in Group A – Uruguay and Egypt – will also fancy their chances of progressing.

The hosts lack star players and will hope to rely on a collective team spirit and local support to inspire them, although CSKA Moscow keeper Igor Akinfeev, Villarreal defender Denis Cheryshev and Alan Dzagoev, who was joint top-scorer at Euro 2012 with three goals, do add experience and some talent to their ranks.

Saudi Arabia’s three standout performers are likely to be Al-Abed, Al-Muwall and Al-Shehri. Al-Abed managed five goals in qualification, while Al-Mulwall was the hero as he struck the crucial goal that sent them to Russia.

Considered minnows, the Middle East nation are appearing at their first World Cup since 2006 while their best-ever performance on this stage came when they made it to the last 16 in 1994.