The wait is almost over – the World Cup is finally here and to get the 2018 tournament underway in Russia, the hosts come up against Saudi Arabia in Group A.
Will home advantage pay off or will it be a case of opening night nerves in the Luzhniki Stadium with Saudi Arabia providing a shock akin to Senegal’s win over then holders France back in 2002?
Our football betting expert runs through the best World Cup betting odds ahead of the opening encounter.
Pressure on Russia
Russia come into the World Cup in some abject form and if they had been forced to go through the qualification stages of the tournament then they may well have found it tough.
Stanislav Cherchesov took over from Leonid Slutsky after a disappointing showing in the European Champions in 2016, where they failed to make it past the group stages, which ultimately led to the former Hull City boss losing his job.
In the Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up for this year’s tournament – they failed to make it out of the group stages, losing to Portugal (1-0) and Mexico (2-1) along the way.
Since that tournament they have only won one game, a 4-2 victory against the Korea Republic, while of their three draws, only Spain stand out as strong opposition.
They may well have to rely on Igor Akinfeev in between the sticks if they are able to progress through the group stages, with the 32-year-old a highly-rated keeper who could well make the difference.
They are 2/5 favourites with grosvenorsport.com to take the win tomorrow.
Little expectation on the Saudis
Saudi Arabia qualified for the finals for the first time since 2006 and have failed to make it out of the group stages since 1994 where they beat Morocco and Belgium along the way.
In Mohammad Al-Sahlawi they have a striker in a rich vein of form having scored a record-breaking 16 goals on their way to qualifying for the tournament and much of their hopes will rest on the 31-year-old’s shoulders.
However, they can take heart from a 2-1 loss to Germany in their last warm-up game before the tournament where they tested the side which is looking to defend their title in Russia and that result may well give them confidence coming into the opening game.
Saudi Arabia are available at 17/2 to pick up the victory.
Tight and tense opening encounter expected
This World Cup opener is hardly a game which many fans will be excited about, and it is likely to be a tense encounter.
If you are feeling a little cautious over the scoring, an outright draw is available at 10/3.