Well, that was an eventful start to Group A, wasn’t it…
Russia flew out the starting blocks and made a mockery of a suicidal combination of a high Saudi Arabian defensive line and poor concentration & composure in possession. The hosts will be delighted with their start, but their first real test comes in St Petersburg on Tuesday when they take on Egypt.
It was heartbreak for The Pharoahs when they conceded late to go down 1-0 to Uruguay in their opener, but they looked comfortable for most of the game. Liverpool winger Mo Salah missed the opener through injury but is sure to return for this one, and is 4/1 with William Hill to score first. If Salah doesn’t start, switch your attention to the hosts and back the impressive Aleksandr Golovin to bag first at 17/2. Everything good went through the CSKA Moscow playmaker, and it’s likely to be the same again here.
In fact, if Salah starts, both teams scoring should be a safe bet at 21/20 with Coral. Russia’s clean sheet against the Saudi’s was deceptive and they are lacking pace at the back, something which can be exploited by Salah and co, who had their moments against Uruguay on Friday.
That said, a 5-0 win against any opposition is a huge confidence booster for a host nation. The feel good factor is back in the Russian camp after years of disarray since being awarded the tournament, and avoiding defeat against Egypt will put them in the driving seat for qualification thanks to a superior goal difference. With that in mind I can see Russia making it hard for their opponents and keeping men behind the ball, and 20/23 for the half-time result to be all-square surely has a big chance.
Egypt remain a bit of an enigma at the moment. They held their own against much-favoured opposition in their opener but without Salah it is difficult to gauge their overall quality. Russia are likely to adopt the same counter-attacking tactics that served them well in Moscow, and although Egypt are a step up in quality, I think the hosts will use that spring in their step to see them home. The home win with both teams scoring is a huge 17/4 with SportingBet.