World Cup: Russia expected to win opening match
June 14, 2018 | 8:13 PM
by Times News Service
Saudi Arabia's Yasser Al-Shahrani in action with Russia's Fyodor Smolov during their World Cup Group A match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on June 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters

Muscat: As Russia prepares to begin tonight’s World Cup curtain-raiser against Saudi Arabia, experts are expecting the home side to comfortably win at Moscow’s Lushniki Stadium.

Gerald Lami, Senior Coach at the Muscat-based Juventus Academy, shared his prediction with the Times of Oman

“Russia have the home advantage and while I don’t know how much it will come into play, I’m sure the officials will be helping out Russia as much as they can them being the home side,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia have also got some good players, I think they will surprise a few teams in the group stage.”

“However being the first game and Russia being the home team I think it will be 2-1 for Russia.”

Russia are currently on a seven game winless streak.

Despite being a meeting between the tournament’s two weakest teams, there is plenty to look forward two on either side of the pitch after the opening ceremony.

Lining up in the starting 11 alongside Alesksandr Golovin and captain Igor Akinfeev will be Brazilian-born footballer Mario Fernandez, who was naturalized in 2016, and veteran Sergei Ignashevich, Russia’s most capped player with 123 appearances.

Leading Saudi Arabia will be Al Nasr striker Mohamed Al Sahlawi, who has scored 26 times in his last 33 international matches.

The news off the pitch is helping build momentum to the upcoming spectacle on it. A new Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) supporting their national team has started proceedings in the Kingdom, garnering over a million views since its launch two days ago. Meanwhile in Russia, a packed crowd of tens of thousands home supporters will be cheering on Russia as millions more at home watch.

The pressure will be on both sides as their countrymen and the rest of the world look on.

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