Russia vs Saudi Arabia
FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group A
Date: Thursday, 14th June 2018
Kick-Off at 17:00 GMT +2
Venue: Luzhniki Arena (Moscow).

The wait is finally over and the biggest football festival in the globe kick starts on Today with host nation Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Match Preview
Saudi Arabia stepped up their World Cup preparations in an international friendly with Italy.

Yahya Al Shehri scored Saudi Arabia’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat to the Azzurri, who will not be represented at this year’s World Cup.

Former Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli scored in his first international start for four years in Roberto Mancini’s first game in charge since become Italy’s new head coach.

Preparations for Russia have been far from ideal since qualifying for a fifth World Cup, with two coaches fired. Edgardo Bauza was dismissed nine days before the draw after only five friendlies in charge. The Russians especially are without a win in the calendar year 2018 and their last win date back to October 2017.

Their current run is a 7 games win-less with 3 draws and 4 losses.The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria last month. Bauza had been appointed in September to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to their first World Cup since 2006.

Juan Antonio Pizzi, who was only named on Tuesday as the new coach, will be tasked with improving on Saudi Arabia’s best-ever performance at World Cup – the second-round exit to Sweden at the 1994 tournament in the United States.

Saudi Arabia Squad:
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al Mayouf (Al Hilal).
Defenders: Mansoor Al Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al Breik (Al Hilal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al Bulaihi (Al Hilal).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al Faraj, Mohamed Kanno (both Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al Shehri (Al Nassr), Fahad Al Muwallad (Al Ittihad)
Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli)

Russia Squad:
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge), Andrei Lunyov (Zenit St. Petersburg).
Defenders: Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Rubin Kazan), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrei Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg).
Midfielders: Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St. Petersburg), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow).
Forwards: Artyom Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar).

Match Facts
The only meeting so far between the two sides came in a friendly back in 1993. Saudi Arabia defeated Russia by a 4-2 margin.

Russia’s record at the Luzhniki Stadium is 19 wins, 7 draws and 5 losses from 31 matches. They were hammered 3-0 by Brazil in the last match here.

These teams come with a vulnerabilities in every department and this match could be termed as a battle of the equals.

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