Russia vs. Saudi Arabia: Team News, Live Stream, TV Info for World Cup 2018

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2018

Russia's forward Fyodor Smolov (2nd R) celebrates after scoring a goal during an international friendly football match between Russia and France at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Eyes across the planet will be on the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday, as host nation Russia get the FIFA World Cup under way against Saudi Arabia.

The first match of this competition is always an event to be savoured, and the weight of pressure of an expectant country will fall on the shoulders of the Russian side. The preparation for the tournament hasn't been ideal for Stanislav Cherchesov's team, though.

Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will hope his players can spring a shock in the Russian capital.

While there are more glamorous matches to come, this is not an occasion to be missed, as the World Cup begins in earnest. Here are the viewing details for the World Cup curtain-raiser.


Date: Thursday, June 14

Time: 4 p.m. 

TV Info: Fox Sports (U.S.), ITV (UK)

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (U.S.), ITV Hub (UK)


Team News

Russia Likely XI: Igor Akinfeev; Alexander Samedov, Vladimir Granat, Sergey Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Yuri Zhirkov; Aleksandr Golovin, Daler Kuziaev, Roman Zobnin; Alexei Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov

Saudi Arabia Likely XI: Yasser Al Mosailem; Mohammed Al Breik, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Yasser Al Shahrani; Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al Jassim; Fahad Al Muwallad, Yahya Al-Shehri, Salem Al Dawsari; Mohammed Al Sahlawi



ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Saudi Arabia celebrate a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Saudi Arabia at the Adelaide Oval on June 8, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)
James Elsby/Getty Images

In World Cups gone by, the host nation has endured mixed fortunes, with the pressure of the home backing either emboldening or inhibiting the team.

In 2002, South Korea soared into the semi-finals as a co-host; while in 2010, South Africa were unable to get beyond the group stage. Four years ago, Brazil performed well up until the semi-finals, before they wilted under the weight of a fanatical nation.

Russia will be given backing here, although it's difficult to know quite what to expect from the hosts, as fitness issues and disputes have prevented a seamless buildup.

The big decision made by Cherchesov has been to not call up the experienced Igor Denisov after the pair previously fell out at Dynamo Moscow.

Journalist Artur Petrosyan believes the 34-year-old has been unlucky to miss out on selection for the World Cup:

Artur Petrosyan @arturpetrosyan

No Nainggolan in Belgium 🇧🇪 squad. No Denisov in Russia 🇷🇺 squad. Both among the very best of respective nations. If that's "tactical" decisions, they are made by not very good tacticians. If that's something else, that's just not appropriate at international football level.

Additionally, injuries to Georgi Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin have robbed Cherchesov of two of his most dependable defenders.

It's further forward where Russia will hope to have an edge on their group rivals. Yuri Zhirkov and Alexander Samedov can provide a threat from wing-back positions, and Alan Dzagoev can make an impact off the bench.

Dzagoev is so experienced on the international stage.
Dzagoev is so experienced on the international stage.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Getty Images

The ace in the pack for the hosts may well turn out to be Aleksandr Golovin, who has proved himself as a major talent in 2017-18 with CSKA Moscow.

Football writer Jonas Giaever summed up what he can offer:

Jonas Giæver @CheGiaevara

Name: Aleksandr Golovin Nation: Russia🇷🇺 Club: CSKA Moscow Position: Midfielder An all-action midfielder often operating in the middle of the park. Good tackler, but even better at dictating the play. Uses both feet, picks passes excellently and can hammer shots from distance. https://t.co/woCFi3R5uR

Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Independent praised the performance of the Russian midfielders in CSKA's UEFA Europa League meeting with Arsenal:

Jack Pitt-Brooke @JackPittBrooke

Reckon this is the game for an earnestly enthusiastic "really impressed by Golovin and Dzagoev" piece.

Saudi Arabia aren't a side to be taken lightly, though, as they have showcased plenty of attributes to make it this far. However, having changed manager twice since booking their place in Russia, it's difficult to know for sure what to expect from the Green Falcons.

They finished ahead of Australia in the AFC Third Round qualifying, with midfielder Nawaf Al Abed scoring five goals in Group B; unfortunately for the underdogs, they will be without him at the finals.

Russia should do enough on opening night, though. With Uruguay and Egypt also in Group A, it's imperative points are put on the board early on.

This game is unlikely to be the most free-flowing football match of the competition, but the result should delight the majority of spectators in the Luzhniki. 

Prediction: Russia 2-0 Saudi Arabia