Russia will take on Saudi Arabia on Thursday, 14th of June at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow at 4pm (GMT). This match will open the 2018 World Cup to set the tone for another history-defining tournament.
Russia Will Face Saudi Arabia in the First World Cup 2018 Match
Russia will deploy the 4-2-3-1 formation which they used at the Euro 2016 tournament. This is a solid formation which allows them to pack the midfield with their technical midfielders such as Aleksandr Golovnin and Alan Dzagoev.
Saudi Arabia will instead try to lock down the midfield with a 4-5-1 formation. This is a strong, defensive formation that will congest the midfield to try and thwart Russia’s more creative players. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s more technical players will be able to flood forward on the counter-attack when called upon.
Pursued by the likes of Tottenham a few years ago, Dzagoev has remained faithful to CSKA Moscow. He is an accomplished midfielder with plenty of creativity and the ability to score goals. Russia’s chances at this year’s World Cup will revolve around his playmaking. So far for his country, he has accumulated 56 appearances with nine goals. Thus, Saudi Arabia must keep close tabs on this player if they wish to thwart the offensive might of their opponents.
This is a player who stands out since he is one of the few Russian national team players to play abroad. Cheryshev spent his youth career in Spain, and first appeared for Real Madrid B, but failed to break through to the first team squad. He has settled at Villareal where he has made 35 club appearances so far. He usually plays at left midfield, with decent pace and dribbling. Cheryshev scored 22 goals in his youth career at Real Madrid B, which serves to illustrate his potential to create goals from wide areas. However, since, he has suffered from injuries and hasn’t fulfilled his potential. This opening World Cup match may well provide the opportunity for him to do this.
Salman Al Faraj
Faraj has a ferocious shot, scoring goals by blasting the ball high past the goalkeeper. He doesn’t just score goals though. He is an accomplished midfielder with good technical ability in terms of dribbling and passing. At 5ft 9in he lacks any real physical power, instead, he has the nimble footwork and some decent acceleration to get past defenders.
General Style of Play
Russia are disciplined and well-organised. They may not be pretty in attack, but they do set up a staunch defence under manager Stanislav Cherchesov. In comparison, Saudi Arabia have many technically gifted players but lack physical strength. They are much likely to hit Russia on the front foot rather than rely on their defensive ability. In turn, this may lead to an exciting match with lots of goals involved. That is if Saudi Arabia can finally score a goal to help win their first ever World Cup match since 1994.
Russia on paper should be able to best Saudi Arabia. They have greater experience at the World Cup and have the physical edge over their opponents. However, the upcoming tournament is yet to reveal the form of its competing nations. Any team can look good on paper, but Russia, on home soil, may be the favourites in this particular match.