Russia vs Saudi Arabia World Cup 2018
It is hard to ignore the overwhelming trend of host nations performing well at the FIFA World Cup, and the fact that no home team has ever lost their home opener at the tournament is a big deal.
Russia’s world ranking is not really a genuine indication of their ability, as the majority of their recent matches have been friendlies, although having said that they have not won any of their four lead-up matches (3L-1D). Saudi Arabia may be well ahead in the standings, but their lack of a consistent manager leading into the tournament is sure to have a negative effect on their output.
Without historical context, it is not easy to predict how the teams will shape up. Our prediction is that the teams will be reasonably well matched, and for that reason, we should see a defensive, counter-attacking display from the Arabians, while Russia will most likely control the game in front of their home fans. At the end of the day, home advantage will prevail here.
We are going with a 2-0 victory, with both goals to come in the second half of play.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia Preview
Russia did not need to go through qualifying to reach their home World Cup, so their competitive history is hard to gauge. They played just three fixtures in 2017 that were not friendly matches, all of which coming at the Confederations Cup, and after a good win against New Zealand the Russians bowed out of the competition after losses to both Portugal and Mexico.
Their form has been inconsistent to say the least. Out of the eleven matches played in 2017, Russia won just three, drew three and lost four. They also failed to score in three of their four losses. In Moscow, the home side won one of four last year, losing to Argentina and Portugal in the capital.
More recently, Russia have lost friendly matches against Brazil (0-3), France (1-3) and Austria (0-1), while their latest match was a 1-1 draw against Turkey.
Saudi Arabia managed to qualify from a difficult group in the AFC, finishing above Australia on goal difference despite losing two more games in the ten match round-robin. They also experienced a difficult 2017, although managed to win seven of their fifteen matches.
In 2018 so far, Saudi Arabia have defeated Greece, Algeria and Moldova in friendly matches, although their three most recent results have all been defeats. Italy, Peru and Germany all proved too strong for the Saudis.
The gulf nation are now led by former Chilean manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, who failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup despite boasting a tremendously talented squad featuring Alexis Sanchez. It will be interesting to see if he can do anything with a Saudi side lacking strikepower on the international stage.
Both nations have a squad that consists of mostly domestic players, so this match will be a chance to see which of the Russian and Saudi domestic competitions is the strongest. Russian teams certainly have a bigger global presence thanks to their participation in the UEFA Champions League.
Head to Head Alternatives
Russia and Saudi Arabia will enter this match at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of odds. As the host nation and the favourite, we are expecting to see the Russians at approximately -265, while the Saudis could appear as high as +800. With such a big gulf, there is little value in selecting the favourite in this case, so we should look to explore other options.
The ‘Which Teams Will Score?’ market is a great market for this particular match. We have already made an assumption that the game will finish 2-0, and if you agree that Russia will keep a clean sheet you will receive much better odds. The approximate price for ‘Russia only’ in this market is -108 – certainly a worthy wager at a good price.
We have also predicted that the match will be decided in the second half – our thought process here is that each side will start slowly and few early chances will be created given the magnitude of the tournament. For that reason, it is not a bad idea to jump on the ‘Half-time/Full-time’ market, where you are betting on which team will lead at the interval and at the end of 90 mins (e.g. ‘Russia – Russia’ means Russia will be leading at half time and the end of the match).
‘Russia-Russia’ is paying close to +116, which is already an improvement on the head to head odds, and if you agree that goals will come in the second half, you would need to pick ‘Draw-Russia’ which appears at around +279.
Group A Betting Odds