Host nation Russia to kick-start against Saudi Arabia
Host nation Russia is hoping to get their campaign off to a flying start as they take on Asian giants Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener.
The Green Falcons, ranked 67th in the latest FIFA rankings, will be making their 5th world cup appearance after a gap of 8 years and they haven't won a world cup match since their debut in the 1994 World Cup. Saudi's Spanish coach Pizzi is confident of getting a positive result. "Our goal is to beat Russia. We are ready, we are not afraid," added the Spaniard. "We are planning on being the protagonists and we will try to control Russia's virtues, which are many," he said.
Russia midfielder Aleksandr Samedov has labelled the opening game of the tournament as "the biggest event of our lives".
"We are ready. The opening game of a home World Cup is going to be the biggest match of my life, for sure," said the Spartak Moscow player.
"We've learned about Saudi Arabia, we know that they like to keep the ball and are a technical team."
"We've got our plan for how to succeed against them."
Russia have slipped in their FIFA rankings to 70th and they haven't won a match since October, last year. On the other hand Saudi Arabia has two wins over Algeria and Greece from their last 5 matches. The two sides have met only once in a friendly in 1993, where the Asian team came out victorious by 4-2.
For the host nation, likes of Igor Akinfeev, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Smolov, Yuri Zhirkov, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovkin and Fyodor Smolov are the ones to look up to.
For Saudi Arabia, striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will be their key man as he was the top scorer with 14 goals in the qualifying campaign. Captain Osama Hawsawi and veteran midfielder, Taisir Al-Jassim is also expected to play a key part.