Russia vs Saudi Arabia: it’s host chance to capitalize
FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 will kick-off with Group A fixture between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The two of the lowest ranked team in the tournament will be burdened with entertaining the global spectators on opening day. Whereas Russia will prove their potential as a host country, Saudi Arabia need to find their footing after a long layoff from World Cup.
Russia wouldn’t like to suffer an early elimination being a host nation. It’s their chance to capitalize facing the weakest team in the group first. However, as per current FIFA rankings, Saudi Arabia is raked better than the host Russia.
Three Falcons ranked 67th whereas host Russia ranked 70th. It’s difficult to choose the favourite between both nations, but being a host nation Russia will always have an advantage. Sbornaya must make the most of their home advantage against Saudi Arabia.
A win against Saudi Arabia will give Russia confidence to face the likes of Uruguay and Egypt in the group. Those will be more difficult games than the opening game against the Three Falcons. Uruguay and Egypt are also favourite to make to the knockout stage from Group A, and being a host nation Russia would like to push their boundaries and find their place in group winner or runners-up.
The match against the Three Falcons in the opening game will definitely give them an edge going forward in the tournament. The hosts need to capitalize on it.
Sergei Ignashevich, the 38-year-old veteran Russian defender knows the importance of this game. He will definitely give an inspiring speech to the team to make the most of this game. Fedor Smolov and Aleksandr Samedov – two of the attacking options looked confident in their pre-match press conference as well.
Samedov told FIFA.com, “No matter what, we have to get out of the group. We must win our first game, then our second and not leave everything to the last minute. I’ve been at three major tournaments before and every time it’s always gone down to the third match for us. Now we have to do everything so it doesn’t come to this.”
Sbornaya’s lowest ranking in the tournament shouldn’t halt their progress. They are down to 70th in the FIFA rankings because they haven’t played competitive matches in the recent times. They have the players who can make the difference at this stage especially in home conditions.
Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Samedov, Smolov, Dzagoev, and Golovin are expected to play a bigger role in their march to the knockout stages. However, no one is considering them as favourite to complete a journey to the knockout stage but I can’t consider them to be knocked out at group stage simply because they are the host nation.
A World Cup without the excitement and presence of home crowd can’t be fulfilling in itself. Everyone remembers the 2002 World Cup for South Korea as a host reaching the semifinals and less for Brazil becoming the World champions for the fifth time. We hope to see the same kind of energy, excitement, and entertainment from the host Russia at the 2018 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia has a great potential but they are obliged to finish the last in this group. You don’t expect two times World Champions Uruguay to return home at the group stage. Egypt simply can’t be ignored for making out to the knockout stage just because their star player Mohamed Salah enjoyed the best season of his career at Liverpool, and Russia simply can’t be eliminated because of a proud host to the World Cup.
It must be Saudi Arabia who should say goodbye at group stage from group A, but you never know. The unpredictability of the tournament makes them a strong case to march forward as well. They have the best attacking option in Fahad Al-Molad and Salem Al Dosari. Three Falcons also have a great coach in Chilean Juan Antonio Pizzi. They are definitely going to present challenges to group A opponents.
You never know in football for sure. Even in David vs Goliath case, David can emerge as a winner. That’s a beauty of football and Russia would like to enjoy their celebration a little longer as a host to FIFA World Cup 2018.