Russia are the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup and they will take on fellow lowly ranked side Saudi Arabia on the opening day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Thursday.
Saudi Arabia are just three places better off in the FIFA rankings and present an opportunity for Russia to bank a precious three points at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Russia have had to rely on friendly internationals and last year’s Confederations Cup to ready for these finals. They have failed to win any of their last seven games (D3, L4), including defeats to Argentina, Brazil and France.
At home, Russia have only won three games out of the last 14. Saudi Arabia meanwhile lost Germany in their trial match 2-1 and have recorded just one win (vs Kuwait) in the last eleven.
The sides have met once in history, with Saudi Arabia winning 4-2 in Riyadh in 1993.
“We still have time to study Russia’s game,” Saudi midfielder Yahya Al-Shehri said.
“First of all, we must focus on our own game. I hope, we will be able to beat Russia.
“I think the game against Russia will be very difficult… Russia are a good team with great players.
“They are united and strong, especially in defence.”
KEY OPTA STATS:
– Russia and Saudi Arabia’s only previous encounter was in October 1993; the Saudis won 4-2 at home in a friendly.
– France were the last World Cup hosts to win the trophy in 1998. The hosts have always reached the second round of the competition, the only exception coming in 2010 when South Africa were knocked out in the group stages.
– Russia are winless in their last five games at the World Cup (D2 L3). In fact, Russia’s only two wins at the World Cup since the collapse of the Soviet Union were against African teams (6-1 v Cameroon in 1994, 2-0 v Tunisia in 2002).
– Saudi Arabia have kept only one clean sheet in their 13 games at the World Cup – it was in their 1-0 win against Belgium in June 1994. They have also failed to score in seven of their last nine games in the tournament.