Thursday 14 June is nearly upon us and host nations Russia take on Saudi Arabia at 4pm (GMT) in the only game on the opening day. We’re also taking a look at some of the other World Cup weekend action including Egypt vs Uruguay, Portugal vs Spain, France vs Australia, Argentina vs Iceland, Germany vs Mexico, and Brazil vs Switzerland.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia (Thursday 14 June, 16.00)
A match between two teams ranked 70th and 67th in the FIFA world rankings may not capture the imagination of many punters. However, if recent internationals are anything to go by, there should be some goals as neither Russia or Saudi Arabia have a great defence. Russia have failed to keep a clean-sheet in any of their last six internationals, with France, Brazil, and Spain all scoring three goals. Meanwhile, though Saudi Arabia have managed a couple of clean sheets in their last six matches against lowly Greece and Algeria, Germany and Italy both scored twice against them, Peru three times, and Belgium four times. During those periods, Russia managed five goals and Saudi Arabia scored six goals. Therefore, we can only hope that Russia try and win the opening match in front of their home fans rather than both teams trying hard not to lose. May the best team win.
Fancy Russia’s chances? – 1.47 with Royal Panda (includes 100% deposit bonus)
Egypt vs Uruguay (Friday 15 June, 13.00)
Mo Salah is a potential match winner anytime he plays for Egypt. However, whilst it was Salah’s goals that got Egypt to the World Cup, their World Cup qualifying performances were also built on solid defensive performances. That solidity has vanished in most of their recent friendlies though with just one clean-sheet in a 0-0 draw with Colombia. They also couldn’t beat Kuwait or Greece, whilst they were outclassed by both Belgium and Portugal. Uruguay certainly looks to have the stronger squad with Cavani and Suarez both capable of scoring plenty of goals. They don’t look invincible though after 0-0 draws against Poland and Venezuela, whilst they also lost to Austria. Uruguay look the better team, but whether you want to be taking odds-on about them is another matter.
Portugal vs Spain (Friday 15 June, 19.00)
The best-looking match on paper of the opening round of group games and it’s likely that the result will have a big influence on deciding who finishes top of Group B. The bookies think Spain will come out on top and have made them favourites to win Group B and odds-on to win this match. However, recent results between the two teams don’t make Spain look an odds-on shot. The teams drew 0-0 at the 2012 European Championships, whilst Portugal won 4-0 in a 2010 friendly and 1-0 in the 2004 European Championships. Spain did win their 2010 World Cup game 1-0 though. The three competitive games between the two sides suggest this will be a tight match with both teams likely to be reluctant to give the other space to operate.
France vs Australia (Saturday 16 June, 11.00)
France will see this as an ideal opportunity to start Group C with a bang, and they’ll know that goal-difference could be the difference between finishing first or second in the group if they don’t win all their three matches. France certainly dominated the match the last match between the two sides as they ran out easy 6-0 winners in their 2013 friendly. Three of Australia’s four matches have produced 12 goals this year, and that could be music to the ears of the French players who can rip any side apart that allows them to play. Therefore, there should be plenty of goals and it could be worth backing over 3.5 goals and heading down to the pub just in time for opening time.
Over 3.5 Goals is 3.20 with Unibet
Argentina vs Iceland (Saturday 16 June, 14.00)
We may not have to wait long for our next top-class performance either, and there should just be time to grab some lunch after France and Australia before settling back down to hopefully watch Lionel Messi turn on the style for Argentina against Iceland. The pair haven’t played each other before but, if their recent matches are anything to go by, this should be entertaining. Argentina’s last four matches have produced 19 goals, whilst Iceland’s last five matches have produced 21 goals. You’d have to think that class will prevail, and Argentina will start their World Cup campaign with a win but, after tasting some success at Euro 2016, expect Iceland to put up a spirited performance even if they don’t prove good enough.
Peru vs Denmark (Saturday 16 June, 17.00)
Denmark are second favourites behind France to qualify from Group C and are just shorter than half the odds of Peru. However, this should be an intriguing clash between two teams who have put together long unbeaten runs, Peru (12) and Denmark (11). There are no previous games between the two teams, but both recently drew 0-0 with Sweden. Prior to that draw, Peru had notched-up four straight wins against Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Iceland, and Croatia. Meanwhile, Denmark had beaten Mexico and drawn with Colombia. Therefore, though I haven’t got a clue what the result might be, this is a game I’m going to watch with interest.
Croatia vs Nigeria (Saturday 16 June, 20.00)
This looks like a match-up of technical ability versus pace and power, and it will be interesting to see which one prevails. Croatia haven’t exactly set the world alight recently but ended their friendlies with a 2-1 win over the respected Senegal. They also beat Mexico but lost to Brazil and Peru. Nigeria have done even less recently with no wins in their last four games. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is a side that has beaten the likes of Argentina and Poland in the last nine months. Another match that it’s hard to have a strong opinion about, especially with both teams probably playing for second place in Group D behind Argentina.
Germany vs Mexico (Sunday 17 June, 16.00)
All eyes will be on World Cup holders Germany as they start their 2018 World Cup campaign on the back of a defeat by Austria. Austria have been in excellent form of late though so that flop may not be as bad as it looks. The two teams have met three times previously in competitive competitions, with Germany winning 4-1 in the 2017 Confederation Cup in Russia, whilst they drew 3-3 in the 2015 Confederations Cup in Germany. Hopefully, there will be just as many goals this time around, as Germany also beat Mexico 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup.
Over 2.5 goals looks the bet here, currently 1.84 with Royal Panda
Brazil vs Switzerland (Sunday 17 June, 19.00)
I get the feeling that Brazil have left no stone un-turned in the quest to regain their pride after Brazil 2014. Recent results certainly suggest that with their 3-0 win over Austria looking excellent on paper considering that Austria had strung together a fine run of results prior to that match. That was Brazil’s fourth win in succession after a 0-0 draw with England, and those other three wins were against Germany, Croatia, and Russia. They also kept a clean sheet in all four games and it is that new defensive strength which has seen them harden as favourites for the 2018 World Cup. Switzerland are unlikely to be pushovers though but may lack the class to trouble Brazil. However, a big score looks unlikely and Brazil will probably be happy to win 2-0.
I suggest a bet on Brazil to win both halves at odds of 3.40 with Unibet