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World Cup Matchday 1 Preview: Russia faces Saudi Arabia to kick off tournament


It’s been four long years since the last World Cup concluded in Brazil, and now the wait for the next one is just about over.

There is only one show in town when the tournament opens up on Thursday morning. Russia and Saudi Arabia will christen 2018 World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The hosts have a fairly difficult draw for the group stage, but they will look to start their campaign off to a strong start in what is probably their most winnable game.

They will need to overcome a weakened attack thanks to an injury to Aleksandr Kokorin up front, but theirs trong midfield should be able to set up opportunities against a weaker Saudi side. Expect them to attack early on with the momentum of the home nation crowd behind them.

The key to their attack will be midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who has 57 caps with the senior team and nine goals scored. The CSKA Moscow man will be tasked with setting up Fyodor Smolov, who has 12 international goals, more than anyone else on this 23 man squad.

As for this Saudi team, they are a rather unknown entity. Their entire roster, save for a few players loaned out to La Liga teams, play their club soccer domestically. Despite this unfamiliarity, we do know Saudi Arabia will look to Fahad Al-Muwallad to create chances for a lone forward up top.

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi will likely be that lone man. He has 28 goals in only 40 international appearances for Saudi Arabia.

The match kicks off at 11 a.m. and can be seen live on FOX.


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