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FIFA World Cup 2018: Unfancied Russia and Saudi Arabia hope to come out all guns blazing in the opener

Hosts Russia face Saudia Arabia in the FIFA World Cup 2018 opener at Moscow’s historic Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday. Neither Russia nor Saudi Arabia are fancied to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy but they will certainly try their best to win the match and take a step forward towards registering their names for the second round.

Russia have not been in top form recently and have failed to win their last seven matches. Their last win was against South Korea in October 2017. Even Saudi Arabia have come second best in their last three friendly matches which they have played against Italy, Peru and defending World Cup champions Germany.

Russia have not won a World Cup since 2002 and Saudi Arabia’s record is even worse, having tasted success last in the 1994 edition of the tournament. Russia would also be keen to maintain the record of no host team losing in the first match of the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia’s Argentine coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is, however, confident of his team beating Russia. The two other teams in Group A are Egypt and two-time champions Uruguay.

Russia qualified automatically as hosts. They had a disastrous tournament in the last FIFA World Cup edition in Brazil when they lost to Belgium and only managed to draw against South Korea and Algeria. The hosts have played 40 World Cup matches in 10 editions till date, winning 17 and scoring 66 goals.

Saudi Arabia just about managed to get into the FIFA World Cup after securing the second spot above Australia on goal difference. Saudi Arabia have played 13 matches in four World Cups, winning just two and have managed to score only nine goals.

Full squad:

Russia: Goalkeepers – Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Andrey Lunev. Defenders – Mario Fernandes, Vladimir Granat, Sergey Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Andrey Semenov, Igor Smolnikov. Midfielders – Denis Cheryshev, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Gazinskiy, Aleksandr Golovin, Daler Kuzyaev, Anton Miranchuk, Aleksandr Samedov, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Zobnin. Forwards – Artem Dzyuba, Alexsey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov.  Coach – Stanislav Cherchesov

Saudi Arabia: Goalkeepers – Yasser Almosailem, Abdullah Almuaiouf, Mohammed Alowais. Defenders – Ali Albulayhi, Mohammed Alburayk, Mansour Alharbi, Yasir Alshahrani, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Othman,. Midfielders – Salem Aldawsari, Salman Alfaraj, Taiseer Aljassam, Abdullah Alkhaibari, Abdulmalek Alkhaibri, Hussain Almoqahwi, Yahia Alsherhri, Hatan Bahbir, Mohamed Kanno, Abdullah Otayf. Forwards – Fahad Almuwallad, Mohamed Alsahlawi, Muhannad Asiri. Coach – Juan Antonio Pizzi

Source: Zee News

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