We’ve finally reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup starting line.
Russia will take on Saudi Arabia at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday in Moscow in the opening game of the world’s biggest sporting event. The matchup pits the host nation, 70th-ranked Russia, against 67th-ranked Saudi Arabia, the first team from FIFA’s Asian confederation to compete in the tournament opener.
Let’s look at the Russia vs. Saudi Arabia betting lines.
Current betting line (via OddsShark.com):
Russia win -256
Saudi Arabia +750
Total goals: 2
NESN.com’s picks: Russia, over
The oddsmakers have good reason to ignore FIFA’s rankings and favor Russia, as the hosts are desperate to shed their “underachievers” tag by impressing the local and worldwide audiences at this tournament. Also, no host nation has ever lost a World Cup opener.
Saudi Arabia is competing in its first World Cup since 2006, and its lack of recognizable stars suggests they’ll struggle in their World Cup return.
We’re expecting an open and entertaining game, as neither side is renowned for its defensive prowess and both are prone to allowing plenty of scoring chances. More than two goals seems like a safe bet.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport/USA TODAY Sports Images