2018 World Cup Daily Updates
Throughout the World Cup, Bet UK will be keeping you up to date with the latest news and match previews. Keep checking back to this page each day to make sure you’re up to date with this summer's World Cup.
Thursday 21st June
Uruguay and Russia are the first 2 side into the Round of 16 after Uruguay survived a nervy second half against Saudi Arabia. Luis Suarez scored in the opening goal in his 100th international appearance, after a goalkeeping error handed him an empty net. Saudi Arabia came out for the second half knowing that only a win would be good enough. It was clear that the Saudi’s knew this, pressing Uruguay all over the pitch until the final whistle. In the end, a draw might have been a fair result, but a defeat sees both Saudi Arabia and Egypt now eliminated from the World Cup.
Group B also saw a team eliminated, with Morocco the first to fall after 2 1-0 defeats. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 4th of the tournament to condemn Morocco to their second defeat in a row. The goal came after 4 minutes after Ronaldo managed to get a free header to easily put the ball in the net. Morocco had Portugal on the back foot in the second half, but failed to convert their dominance into a goal. The second Group B game saw Spain beat Iran 1-0, after another resilient Iran display. Diego Costa scored again to take his tally up to 3, chasing down Ronaldo for the golden boot. Iran then had a goal dissallowed thanks to VAR, continuing to pressurise the Spanish defence. Iran still aren’t out the World Cup, although only a win against Portugal would take them out of the group stage.
Denmark v Australia
Denmark won their last game against Peru, with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel keeping the Peruvian forwards at bay. Denmark looked sloppy when they had the ball, but carved out one good chance that Yussuf Poulsen slotted tidily into the bottom corner. Christian Eriksen was frustrated with his service in the game, shouting at his teammates for not passing him the ball as often as he would like. Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer look like quite a formidable partnership at the back and will be hoping to stop the Aussie attack today.
Australia had a mixed game against France, conceding the first penalty awarded by VAR at a World Cup, before going on to score their own. A late own goal overshadowed a strong Australia performance, who maybe deserved to get a draw. Mile Jedinak scored the penalty that drew the Aussies level, becoming the first Australian to score in consecutive World Cups. Australia defended well throughout the match, mostly keeping a strong French attack at bay. If they put in the same performance against Denmark then they may get the points that they deserve.
France v Peru
The French side will be hoping to improve on their opening game performance, despite a 2-1 victory over Australia. Griezmann and Pogba gave Didier Deschamps’ side a good start to the World Cup, but their performance didn't leave many impressed. With so many creative players going forward, it was surprising how little clear cut chances the French created. Mbappe was a lonely figure up front, Dembele was mostly uninvolved and Griezmann became increasingly frustrated at his own performance. If the front 3 can gel together then it will be a formidable attack. But until then, the French will always be slightly unpredictable.
Peru’s first World Cup game since 1982 didn’t quite go to plan. An emotional Peru side should have been ahead at half time, but after Christian Cuevas missed a penalty, it was Denmark who took the initiative. Paolo Guerrero did make an appearance in the second half, but couldn’t make the difference that was needed. Peru still put in an exciting performance though and they might just cause a shock against an unsettled France side.
Argentina v Croatia
Lionel Messi will be hoping for a better performance against Argentina, after his penalty miss against Croatia. A frustrating game for the whole Argentina squad led to a 1-1 draw with Iceland. Sergio Aguero managed to get his first World Cup goal for his country, but shambolic defending gifted an equaliser to Iceland. A second half penalty was then saved to wrap up a poor performance. If Argentina are going to progress any further, then they will either need to lessen their reliance on Messi, or hope that he can work some magic.
Croatia got off to a straight forward start against Nigeria, with a 2-0 win courtesy of an own goal and a Luka Modric penalty. Nigeria didn’t put up much of a fight to be quite honest, so Croatia might have to step up their game if they expect another win. Modric and Rakitic will likely start again in the centre of midfield to provide chances for a dangerous forward line. Mandzukic was heavily involved in both goals against Nigeria and could benefit against a suspect Argentina defence.
Wednesday 20th June
Russia are close to becoming the first team to confirm their place in the Round of 16. A commanding second half performance against Egypt was enough to win 3-1, despite Mo Salah’s penalty threatening an Egyptian comeback. Denis Cheryshev bagged his 3rd goal in 2 games to match Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot. Artem Dzyuba has been a surprise package after his 2nd goal of the tournament. The striker was 2nd choice against Saudi Arabia, but has made the most of his chances in the team
Group H began with a couple of shock results, with Japan and Senegal both winning 2-1. Japan made the most of a 1 man advantage against Colombia, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off after just 3 minutes for a clear handball. Shinji Kagawa put the penalty away before Colombia equalised with a clever free kick. Juan Quintero sneaked a free kick underneath the wall, with the ball just going over the line. Colombia still had good chances despite only having 10 men. But 15 minutes from the end, Japan striker Yuya Osako scored after a corner to give his country the 3 points. Poland v Senegal was a lot less competitive, with Senegal dominating the game from the start. Idrissa Gueye scored after his shot was deflected past Wojciech Szczesny, before M’baye Niang made it 2 after a horrible misunderstanding in the Polish defence. Grzegorz Krychowiak scored a late header, but Poland never looked like threatening an equaliser, with Robert Lewandowski looking increasingly frustrated as the game went on.
Portugal v Morocco
Group B returns with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal facing off against Morocco. Portugal will be hoping to build on a decent performance against Spain, maybe without relying on Ronaldo quite as much. The Real Madrid forward cannot be expected to carry his country through the full tournament and will be hoping for a better showing from his teammates. A Portugal win will put them in a good position for qualification, with Spain their only real competitors. The final standings could come down to goal difference, so don’t expect Portugal to simply sit back.
Morocco lost their important group opener against Iran, meaning a win is needed today. Against Iran, Morocco started very strongly and should have got the opening goal. They ran out of ideas though against a determined Iran defence. Portugal will be far more attacking which might work well for Morocco, giving them more chances on the counter attack. Nordin Amrabat and Hakim Ziyech will be hoping to make the most of the spaces that they will surely get. Another loss could see Morocco out if Spain beat Iran later on, it really is all or nothing for the African side.
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia
On the back of a 5-0 loss to Russia, Saudi Arabia might just have to hope for damage limitation against Uruguay. Surely out of the tournament already, the Saudi’s will have to play for pride, with no real chance of making it to the round of 16. With Suarez and Cavani in attack, Uruguay will be hoping to match Russia’s 5 goal haul to ensure that they have a competitive goal difference. Russia’s goal difference is currently +7, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Uruguay get to that total after today’s game. Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin will be expecting a quiet afternoon and a second successive clean sheet against a poor Saudi Arabia attack. With an important game against Russia coming up in the final group game, Uruguay might rest some players, but can they afford to take that risk?
Iran v Spain
The final game of the day puts former world champions Spain up against Iran. Iran surprisingly sit top of Group B after their win against Morocco, but few would expect them to still be there at the end of the day. Iran could progress through to the round of 16 with a win, which would be a monumental shock given the difference in quality between the 2 sides. Spain come into the game on the back of the explosive 3-3 draw with Portugal. Diego Costa looks to be finally finding his feet at a World Cup after a poor showing in 2014. A goal scoring striker is what Spain are often missing, but with Costa bullying opposition defenders the Spaniards could go far in this competition.
Tuesday 19th June
England got off to an ideal World Cup start, beating Tunisia thanks to a late Harry Kane goal. England started off in electric form, missing a couple of good chances before Kane put a rebound past the Tunisian keeper. Kyle Walker gave away a penalty that was cooly dispatched by Ferjani Sassi, setting up a nervy second half. England never really got going in the second half, but still managed to sneak a late goal. Harry Kane was in the right place at the right time, unmarked at the back post to nod home Harry Maguire’s flick on.
There were 2 other matches, with Sweden v South Korea and Belgium v Panama playing each other. Sweden won their first World Cup game since 2006, with a Andreas Granqvist penalty enough to beat South Korea. VAR has played a big part in the World Cup, with a penalty being awarded for the 10th time so far in the tournament. It was easy work for Belgium as they beat first time participants Panam 3-0. It was a cagey first half, with Panama defending well against a strong Belgium attack. As the Panama team tired, Belgium took advantage with 3 second half goals. The first was a wonder goal from Dries Merten, a looping volley hit from the edge of the box to the far corner. A couple of smart finished by Romelu Lukaku put him in contention for the golden boot and with Belgium taking on Tunisia next, he could grab another.
Colombia v Japan
Tuesday kicks off with Colombia playing Japan in the first Group H game of the tournament. The Colombians only played one warm up game on the way to the World Cup, drawing 0-0 with Egypt at the start of June. They have an experience, but aging squad that might be coming to their last world cup as a strong group. A couple of rising stars in Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina in defence might be able to hold off opposition attacks, but a lot of Colombia’s play will be relying on James Rodriguez. Playing on loan at Bayern, James benefited from Jupp Heynckes return to the Allianz, after struggling for game time under Carlo Ancelotti. He was the golden boy of the last world cup, taking home the golden boot after scoring 6 goals. Colombia will be hoping that their star man can replicate that form in Russia this summer.
Japan are expected to be the whipping boys of Group H, even in a group that has 4 very close teams. Similar to the South Korean team, Japan might have a few options going forward. With Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki expected to be leading the line for their country, they could provide a few chances. But with most of their defenders still playing in Japan they could easily be exposed at the back.
Poland v Senegal
The final 2 teams to start their World Cup campaign kick off at 4pm, with Poland and Senegal both returning to the competition. Poland have one of the worlds greatest strikers leading in the line in Robert Lewandowski. With a battling and experience midfield behind him, Poland will be expecting to get out of the group stage. Senegal won’t make it easy for them, with a number of top players making a strong spine to the team. Sadio Mane up front, Idrissa Gana Gueye in midfield and Kalidou Koulibaly in defence make for a strong base to a team that might surprise a few. Senegal are of course famous for their World Cup win against France in 2002, shocking the 1998 winners to win 1-0. They reached the quarter finals in South Korea and Japan, but this is their first time back at a World Cup since. Could they be the first African team to reach the semi finals of the competition?
Russia v Egypt
The host nation play their second game against an Egypt team that struggled against Uruguay in their opener. Russia will be high on confidence after a 5-0 battering of Saudi Arabia. Another win against Egypt will all but put the hosts through to the round of 16, but with Mo Salah returning, it may be more difficult. Liverpool’s ‘Egyptian King’ will be hoping to make an instant impact after missing the first game through injury. Salah has scored 4 of Egypt’s last 5 goals in all competitions, so his whole country will be relying on him to get the goals needed to save Egypt’s competition. If Egypt fail to win, they will need a miracle to make it through to the next round.
Monday 18th June
After a weekend packed full of football, who’s ready to start again? The World Cup has lived up to its billing so far, with world class goals and controversy never far away. But today is the day England have been waiting for. England v Tunisia kicks off at 7pm tonight, with the 3 Lions heading to Volgograd on their search for 3 points in Group G. Bet UK already have a dedicated match preview here, but there are another 2 matches we can look forward to.
Sweden v South Korea
These 2 teams find themselves in Group F, which could possibly be the group of death. But with Germany losing to Mexico on Sunday, the group is now wide open, so 3 points could be vital for either team today. Sweden come into their first World Cup since 2006, and also without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The legendary striker was left out of the squad, even after late rumours suggested he might be involved. The Swedes actually have a good record at World Cups. In 1994, they came 3rd, before 2 round of 16 appearances in 2002 and 2006. In 2006, England fans found out just how difficult Sweden could be to play against, with a late Henrik Larsson goal rescuing a 2-2 draw. This year, goalscoring duties fall to Marcus Berg, who plays in Dubai for Al Ain. Behind him, Emil Forsberg will be expected to create plenty of chances. The RB Leipzig midfielder is the star of this Sweden team, being linked with countless European teams since his breakout in Germany.
South Korea will be relying on Heung Min Son to carry them through to the next round. An ever present at the World Cup since 1986, South Korea will do very well to come close to their 4th place finish in 2002. Going forward, the Koreans can expect to cause a few problems, with Son at the heart of everything that they create. Ki Sung-yueng will be behind him, having played over 100 times for his country, he will be the captain. Defence could be there weakness, with all of their defenders playing in Asia. With the Asian leagues typically being weaker than in Europe, they may struggle when coming up against the worlds best.
Belgium v Panama
The first match in Group G puts first time participants Panama against constant ‘dark-horses’ Belgium. It seems like the Belgians have been the so-called dark horses in every recent tournament, but never live up to the name. Roberto Martinez’s men will be expecting to comfortably advance through the group stage, with their only real challenge coming against England on the 28th June. With players like Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard playing behind Romelu Lukaku, Belgium have the potential to score against any team. A strong defence lead by Tottenham stalwarts Alderweireld and Vertonghen is another reason to back the Belgians. So why do they never perform on the national stage? Perhaps it could be Martinez’s tactics that are limiting his team's potential. After a 3-3 draw with Mexico, De Bruyne publicly criticised Martinez’s tactics, so maybe there is some disagreement in the Belgium camp.
Panama complete a remarkable journey in qualification to get to their first ever World Cup. Claiming USA’s spot in the North American qualification, Panama’s best hope is to not get embarrassed against much stronger opposition. Mainly playing in the USA and South America, there will be very few names that ring a bell with English football fans. Panama will be hoping that an experienced squad will carry them through, with a remarkable 5 players having over 100 caps. Their 2 main strikers may have scored 43 goals each, but with a combined age of 73, they can hardly be counted on against world class defences. It waits to be seen how Panama fare in their first game, but this will surely be an unforgettable experience for the whole country.
15th - 17th June
What a weekend of football! On Friday night we were treated to possibly the game of the tournament when Portugal and Spain drew 3-3. Then over the weekend, pre tournament favourites Germany, Argentina and Brazil all failed to win. Surely this all sets it up perfectly to England to storm the tournament and bring the World Cup home? The 3 Lions kick off their World Cup against Tunisia tonight. Check out Bet UK’s match preview for all you need to know about the game
Friday June 15th
Friday’s fixtures were all about late drama. An 89th minute goal gave Uruguay the win against Egypt, before Iran got a World Cup win thanks to a 95th minute own goal. The curtain closed on Friday with a World Cup classic. A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal drew 3-3 with Spain in Fernando Hierro’s first match in charge of his national team.
The day started with Uruguay facing off against Egypt, who were without Mo Salah. Salah’s absence wasn’t too harshly felt, as Egypt managed to contain Uruguay and even conjured up a few chances of their own. If Salah was on the pitch, it could be argued that Egypt might be more effective on the counter, but they still looked strong enough without their talismanic forward. Luis Suarez could have had the Golden Boot wrapped up early on, failing to convert and of the chances provided to him. In the end, a set piece was powerfully headed home by Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez. It’s typical that a defender stole the show in a match that was meant to be all about the strikers.
Morocco v Iran will hardly be remembered by anyone as a World Cup classic, but it was a momentous day for any Iran fans. The minnows went into the tournament as underdogs, predicted by many to finish bottom of the group with 0 points. However, going into matchday 2, Iran will be top of the group thanks to a last minute own goal. The game itself was quite even, Morocco started the game brightly but Iran should have been leading at half time thanks to a couple of good chances. Morocco will look back at this game as 3 points dropped, with the African team now needing a miracle to make it into the next round.
The final game on Friday might go down as the game of the tournament. An end to end game with chances for both teams, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who took home the plaudits with the first hat trick of the World Cup. The 51st World Cup hat trick, as well as the 51st of Ronaldo’s professional career, started with a penalty after just 2 minutes. Ronaldo’s fast feet proved too much for Nacho, before the penalty was buried past David De Gea. Diego Costa pulled one back with a wonderful solo effort before a De Gea error gave Portugal their second goal. A close range finish from Costa brought the game level again shortly after half time. This gave Spain the confidence they needed to play their natural flowing game, resulting in a thunderbolt of a volley into the bottom corner from Nacho. It was the defender’s first international goal, but he will never score a better one than that. A clumsy foul on the edge of the box gave Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to wrap up his hat trick. Just outside the penalty area, Ronaldo managed to curl his shot around the wall and into the top corner, wrapping up his hat trick, and a perfect World Cup match.
Saturday June 16th
Saturday might not have provided the excitement of the previous day, but with 4 matches in one day, can we really complain? France started out their World Cup against Australia, managing to get a 2-1 win. 2 penalties early in the second half had the game level before a deflected Paul Pogba shot looped over Mat Ryan in the 80th minute. Antoine Griezmann managed to score his first goal of the tournament, hoping to repeat his feat of Euro 2016, where he won the Golden Boot. France didn’t look too comfortable against Australia who set up well, but they should improve as the tournament goes on.
Lionel Messi failed to inspire Argentina to an opening game win, missing a penalty in the process. Iceland managed a first World Cup point after playing much of the game with 11 men behind the ball. Messi struggled to find the space that he needed, with Aguero providing the only bit of quality in the match. A quick turn and shot gave Argentina an early lead, but Alfred Finnbogason equalised just 4 minutes later after some calamitous Argentine defending. If Argentina have any chance of winning their group, they need more options than simply giving Messi the ball and hoping for the best.
The final 2 games were Peru v Denmark and Croatia v Nigeria. Peru were appearing in their first World Cup since 1982, but couldn’t find a way past Peter Schmeichel in the Denmark goal. Yussuf Poulsen scored in the second half to get Denmark off to the perfect start, but Peru had the better chances. Christian Cueva missed a first half penalty before national hero Paolo Guerrero put a back heel narrowly wide. Croatia got their World Cup underway against a poor Nigeria team. They might have one of the most sought after kits at the World Cup, but it looks like we may only see if in the group stage. A first half own goal put Croatia ahead, with Luka Modric firing home a penalty to secure the 3 points.
Sunday June 17th
Sunday saw 2 of the early tournament favourites play their first games, with Germany taking on Mexico and Brazil facing off against Switzerland. Before all that kicked off, the first Group E match saw Serbia play Costa Rica. Going into the match, a European team was yet to taste defeat and the Serbs carried on Europe’s strong showing. A stunning Aleksandar Kolarov free kick in the second half was enough to separate the 2 sides. It was a close fought affair, with both teams having good chances in either half. Aleksandar Mitrovic went into the game on the back of a hattrick against Bolivia. He still missed the games best chance though, his 1 on 1 effort comfortably being saved by Keylor Navas.
When Germany kicked off against Mexico, many had predicted that they would defend their 2014 trophy. The Germans started off strong, dominating possession and pressuring Mexico at any point, but still never looked comfortable in defence. Germany’s full backs were bombing forward at any opportunity, giving Mexico’s electric front 4 plenty of chances to exploit the space that was being left. PSV star Hirving Lozano was the man to benefit the most. Hitting the German defence on the counter attack, Lozano took advantage of Kimmich disappearing down the right hand side. Cutting inside Ozil onto his right foot, Lozano fired a low shot past Neuer. Germany threw everything they had at Mexico, but the South Americans held on for their first ever victory over Germany.
Brazil are looking to win their 6th World Cup this year in Russia, but they will have to play better than they did against Switzerland if they have any hope of doing that. A 1-1 draw isn’t a horrible result, but after a very promising start, they will be disappointed. Philippe Coutinho hit a shot that has now become expected of him, curling the ball into the far corner from 25 yards. Brazil dominated the game in the early exchanges and could have been even further ahead, Paulinho and Gabriel Jesus both missing from inside the 6 yard box. Their failure to finish chances was punished 5 minutes into the second half. Swiss midfielder Steven Zuber rose highest to easily head home a corner. Brazil continued to attack in the second half but Neymar and co couldn't find a way past Yann Sommer in the Swiss net. Switzerland will now fancy their chances in Group E after getting a valuable point against their hardest opposition.
riday June 15th
What a start for the Russians! A 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia is the best result that the hosts possible could have hoped for, claiming their first clean sheet in over a year. Yuri Gazinsky put Russia ahead after an Alexsandr Golovin cross, beating 2 Saudi Arabia defenders at the back post. The first goal of the World Cup also saw the first use of VAR, with the referee needing to double check if any Russian players were offside as the ball was delivered. Denis Cheryshev then scored the first of 2 cracking finishes, beating 2 Saudi defenders before firing in at the keeper’s near post.
In the second half, Saudi Arabia were happy for the Russian’s to attack them, trying to hit them on the counter at every opportunity. The gulf in class was very clear though, with Russia handled everything that they can handle. Artem Dzyuba was brought on as a second half substitute, with the 6 ft 5” striker scoring with almost his first touch, a header into the bottom corner. It looked like finishing 3-0, until a 25 yard Cheryshev volley and perfect Golovin free kick, both coming in added time, secured the win. Russia’s next game is against Egypt on the 19th June, with Saudi Arabia facing South American giants Uruguay on the 20th.
Egypt v Uruguay
The second Group A fixture see’s Mo Salah’s Egypt take on Uruguay. It’s still undecided if Egypt will have their talisman available for the first game, but Egyptian manager Hector Cuper is sure Salah will feature at some point. Without Salah, Egypt might find it hard to break down a Uruguayan defence featuring Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Jose Giminez. The pair play with each other regularly at club level and will be hoping to carry that form into the World Cup. At the back, Egypt look quite vulnerable, with Ahmed Hegazi the star, even after being relegated with WBA. Mohamed Elneny will be sitting in front of a fragile defence, hoping to put in a better performance in an Egypt shirt than in an Arsenal one.
Going forward, Uruguay are one of the strongest teams in the whole tournament. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani scored 71 goals between them at club level last season. If the 2 can combine, then Uruguay will be a very difficult team to stop. Coming 4th in the 2010 World Cup and reaching the Round of 16 in 2014, Uruguay are a team that know how to do well in tournaments. They’ll be hoping to go far in Russia, being many peoples ‘dark horse’ of the tournament.
Morocco v Iran
Initially, this might not look like the most exciting game, but both teams have experienced managers and a couple of stand out players. This might be one to keep an eye on.
Morocco come into the World Cup after only conceding 1 goal in the whole of their qualification campaign. Coming up against Ivory Coast and Gabon, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, that shows that the Moroccans are set up well. Hakim Ziyech is the star of a surprisingly strong Morocco team. The attacking midfielder won the Dutch Player of the Year for his performances in 17/18, linking him with teams all around Europe. Mehdi Benatia is the team captain, another player who has performed consistently well in Europe’s top leagues.
On the other hand, Iran don’t have any players playing for top European teams. Their top player is Sardar Azmoun, who actually plays his club football in Russia for Rubin Kazan. Reza Ghoochannejhad will partner him up front, having worked his way up from league 1 Charlton to play for Heerenveen in the Eredivisie. Iran’s strength comes in their management, with Carlos Quieroz now in his 7th year of managing the national team. He spent 5 years underneath Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, either side of a year managing Real Madrid. Another short stint as Portugal manager proves that Queiroz has the experience to manage any team. He will be setting his Iran team up to be hard to beat, and they could cause a shock or 2 in Russia.
Portugal v Spain
Possibly the biggest match of the World Cup group stage, Portugal take on Spain at 7pm. Spain have just sacked Julen Lopetegui after he announced he would be joining Real Madrid, but they still have a strong squad that could go far into the tournament. Fernando Hierro has been appointed manager just in time for the World Cup, but it remains to be seen what kind of effect he can have on his players. Even though he is a legendary Spanish defender, the whole squad will be used to Lopetegui’s tactics, and it could take a while to adjust to the new regime. World Cup winners in 2010, the Spanish team were embarrassed in Brazil, only managing a win against Australia after drubbings from Chile and Holland. Combining a wealth of experience with plenty of young talent, Spain are a team who could still do very well. Many are predicting this could be a breakthrough tournament for Real Madrid star Marco Asensio, with youngsters Vazquez and Saul Niquez both being selected.
Portugal are a team focused around Cristiano Ronaldo and it’s vital that he turns up in order for the team to be successful. Winning the 2016 European Championships on the back of a strong defence, they will do well to do the same in Russia. The defence that won that championship are aging, with Bruno Alves and Pepe having a combined age of over 70. A younger attack could be the difference between Portugal and their group B opponents. Goncalo Guedes, Bernardo Silva and Andre Silva will be playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in a fast, attacking front 4. Hitting Spain on the counter could be the key, with the Spanish players known to hold onto the ball and build up play slowly. The match is sure to be intriguing and won’t be one you’ll want to miss.
Thursday 14th June
The 2018 World Cup has finally arrived! It’s been 4 years since Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in Brazil to give Germany the World Cup. They will be starting their defence of the title on Sunday 17th June, but first we’ve got the host nation Russia to kick things off.
Russia v Saudi Arabia
Russia and Saudi Arabia face off at the Luzhniki Stadium in the first of 64 matches that you can feast your eyes on over the next month. The first Group A match is actually between the 2 lowest ranking countries in the whole tournament. But don’t let that dampen your spirits, it’s sure to be a cracker.
Russia will be hoping that striker Fedor Smolov will carry on his club form this summer. The FC Krasnodar forward has scored 52 goals in just 73 games for his club, taking home the Russian Golden Boot for 2 of the last 3 years. Not quite as prolific for this country, Smolov is still the highest scorer in the current squad, 1 ahead of Artem Dzyuba. Russia also have plenty of experience in the squad, with Igor Akinfeev and Sergei Ignashevich both boasting over 100 national caps. The team hasn’t changed too much since the 2014 World Cup, with Russians hoping the old guard can carry them through on home soil.
After narrow defeats to Italy and Germany in their World Cup preparation, Saudi Arabia might not be as easy a match up as some people think. Scoring against both teams, it’s clear that manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will not set his team up just to defend. Similar to their Russian counterparts, Saudi Arabia are relying on experience at the World Cup. Of their expected starting eleven, 10 of them have over 30 caps. This is Saudi Arabia’s first World Cup appearance since 2006, but they also haven’t won a World Cup game since 1994. Even just one win in Russia would be a successful World Cup, they might even spoil the party on the very first day.