The opening match of the FIFA World Cup of Group A will be played between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, today, on June 14 at 11:00 AM Eastern Time.
The two teams have only faced each other just once, with Russia losing a friendly 4-2 back in 1993. They have never played a game with each other at a World Cup game before. Both are the lowest ranked teams in the FIFA Rankings at this year’s World Cup; Russia recently slipped to the 70th position while Saudi Arabia is ranked at the 67th position.
The hosts, Russia, will be looking to start the tournament on a win, given the home ground advantage. But only time will tell whether they choke in front of their own fans.
Saudi Arabia kicked off their World Cup preparations with an International Friendly with Italy. Yayha Al Shehri scored the only goal for Saudi Arabia, but unfortunately, that was not enough as they lost 2-1.
The national stadium of Russia, The Luzhniki Stadium, will be hosting the first match of the FIFA World Cup and is located in Moscow. The stadium has a total seating capacity of 81,000, making it the biggest football stadium in Russia.
The opening ceremony of the event will be hosted at the stadium just thirty minutes before kick-off time. It will include around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists. The highlight of the ceremony will be a performance by Robbie Williams alongside young Russian artist, Aida Garifullina.
Predicted XI for Russia
Goalkeeper: Igor Akinfeev
Defenders: Mario Fernandes, Fedor Kudryashov, Sergey Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov
Midfielders: Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyaev, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Samedov, Aleksandr Golovin
Forwards: Fedor Smolov
Manager: Stanislav Salamovich Cherchesov
Predicted XI for Saudi Arabia
Goalkeeper: Abdullah Al-Mayouf
Defenders: Usamah Husawi, Omar Hosawi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Barik
Midfielders: Abdullah Otif, Salman Al-Faraj, Yahya Al-Shihri, Taisir Al-Jassim, Salem Al Dosari
Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi Torroja
Saudi Arabia: Mohammad Al Sahlawi will be the player to watch for given his recent form. Al Sahlawi scored 16 goals for Saudi Arabia in their qualifying round.
Russia: Russian captain and talented goalkeeper, Igor Vladimirovich Akinfeev, who has made more than 500 official appearances for his club PFC CSKA Moscow.