World Cup opener: Russia v Saudi Arabia - Preview and possible lineups

Russia and Saudi Arabia will get the World Cup underway. FIFA/BeSoccer

World Cup opener: Russia v Saudi Arabia - Preview and possible lineups

We take a look at the 2018 World Cup opening match between hosts Russia and Group A opponents Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Kick-off: Thursday 5pm (CET).


Losing striker Aleksandr Kokorin was a big blow to the hosts going into the tournament so they will have to rely on Aleksandr Golovin as their most dangerous attacking threat instead.

In addition, most of the squad play domestically in Russia but they can look to Villarreal's Denis Cheryshev and Club Brugge shotstopper Vladimir Gabulov to give European experience.

Saudi Arabia:

The Middle Eastern country will be pinning their hopes on Al-Abed, Al-Muwall and Al-Shehri with the three bringing a mixture of goalscoring prowess, experience and robustness to the side.

Russia striker Artyom Dzyuba on his country's chances:

"We're realists. We're not favourites to win the World Cup, but we want to get out of the group and we're playing at home. We want to prove to everyone, and most of all to ourselves, that we can play football, so that the country can be proud of us.

"We're a football country, not just an ice hockey or basketball or volleyball country, but a football one too. And we'll put every effort into getting out of the group, to start with, and we'll only start fantasising after that."

Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi on their opponents:

"Our goal is to beat Russia. We are ready, we are not afraid. We are planning on being the protagonists and we will try to control Russia's virtues, which are many".

Did you know?

Russia and Saudi Arabia's only previous encounter was in October 1993; the Saudis won 4-2 at home in a friendly.

Prediction: 1-0

Possible lineups:

Russia: Akinfeev; Zhirkov, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Fernandes; Golovin, Anton Miranchuk, Zobnin, Samedov; Dzagoev, Smolov.

Saudi Arabia: Al-Muaiouf, Al-Burayk, Al-Boleahi, Hawsawi, Al-Harbi, Al-Faraj, Ali-Khaibari, Kanno, Al-Jassim, Al-Shehri, Al-Sahlawi.

Anna Woodberry

Anna Woodberry

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