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Opening game: Russia v Saudi Arabia (Group A, 1600BST)

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Group A: Russia v Saudi Arabia, KO 16:00BST

Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Previous World Cup meetings: None

The Background:  We're about to find out if Russia are the worst World Cup host nation of all time.  Three managers in the last three years, an ageing squad ravaged by injuries, one win in their last ten friendlies.  Desperate to prove a point on home soil, but nobody in Russia gives them much of a chance and they haven't been past the first round since the days of the old USSR in 1986.   Saudi Arabia haven't won a WC game since USA 94 and missed the last two tournaments altogether.  But their form isn't bad going in: they achieved automatic qualification ahead of Australia and they've only gone down narrowly against Italy and Germany in their warmup games.  Former Spain striker Juan Antonio Pizzi has been drafted into the Saudi Arabian dugout after Bert van Marwijk qualified them but cleared off to manage Australia instead.  Pizzi himself had failed to qualify with Chile, but now he's heading to Russia anyway.

Players to watch: Slim pickings in the Saudi team which is purely home based players; a bold plan to let some of them build up experience on loan with Spanish clubs unravelled when none of them got any game time.  No survivors from their last World Cup squad in 2006.  FC Krasnodar's Fyodor Smolov looks like Russia's best chance of a goal; the highest scorer in the squad in international terms, he banged in a brace against Spain in a friendly last year and scored against France in March.  Alan Dzagoev is restored as the danger man in midfield after he shared the golden boot at Euro 2012 and pulled the strings in Brazil four years ago, then missed Russia's awful Euro 2016 campaign through injury.  Veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich was a late callup aged 38 to replace the injured Ruslan Kambolov.  He will become the fourth oldest outfield player at a World Cup if he sees any action.

Edited by Rob1981

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Any info on the opening ceremony? 

They going to roll out some missiles and tanks in typical Russian fashion? 

Oh oh maybe T. A. T. U will sing All the things she said! 

Edited by Bliss Seeker

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ITV coverage starts at 2.30 for a 4.00 kickoff, so they're either showing a decent amount of the opening ceremony hoopla or they're giving Lee Dixon and the rest a LOT of studio time to fill.

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1 minute ago, Rob1981 said:

I think I read Will Smith is at the opening ceremony to do the song.

Oh, but he's not Russian :(

 

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Previous opening games:

 

1966: England 0-0 Uruguay
England kicked off their march to World Cup glory with an instantly forgettable goalless draw against Uruguay. No people were on the pitch, nobody thought it was all over, Geoff Hurst was on the bench.

It was the first time England had failed to score at Wembley since 1945, and at the final whistle the disappointed home fans booed the Uruguayans for their dirty foreign tactics of frustrating the hosts with what football scholars now refer to as “defending”.

1970: Mexico 0-0 Soviet Union
It goes on like this for a while. It does get better, I promise. The 90-second YouTube highlights video is not action-packed, at times bringing to mind the legendary match many years later that would determine once and for all which is the greatest nation on earth, Mexico or Portugal.

In a fine piece of early squad number banter, Soviet goalkeeper Anzor Kavazashvili was wearing the No. 2 shirt.

 

1974: Brazil 0-0 Yugoslavia
This feature is starting to look like a bad idea. Should’ve just started in 1990. Too late now. Anyway, in a blatant attempt to change the opening game’s dismal fortunes, it was the holders rather than the hosts who kicked off proceedings in West Germany.

It didn’t work, with Brazil spending much of the time trying to score from 40 yards for some reason, while Branko Oblak (no relation) somehow smacked a header into the post from a yard out for Yugoslavia in the second half. Both teams settled for a point in the closing stages, to hoots of derision from the German crowd.

 

1978: West Germany 0-0 Poland
By now, serious discussions were taking place about whether it would be better to just skip straight to the second game of the tournament, West Germany the latest big name frustrated in a low-key start to the adidas Tango’s reign as king of footballs.

 

1982: Argentina 0-1 Belgium
A goal! Argentina making a bit of a bollocks of things! Ossie Ardiles wearing the No. 1 shirt because of the alphabet!

Espana 82 was when the World Cup opening game truly and finally came into its own. Both teams would go on to qualify from Group 3, before coming horribly unstuck in the slightly daft second group stage where Argentina and Belgium’s combined record read played four, lost four.

 

1986: Bulgaria 1-1 Italy
Bulgaria snatched a late point against holders Italy at a packed and noisy Azteca. Alessandro Altobelli gave Italy the lead just before the break and then had to do an awkward half-time interview as he tried to head back down the tunnel, which feels very Modern Football for something that happened… bloody hell, 32 years ago. Italy couldn’t find a second goal and fell to the classic sucker punch when Nasko Sirakov headed an equaliser five minutes from time.

 

1990: Argentina 0-1 Cameroon
Now you’re talking. Every English 30-something’s favourite World Cup – despite constant millennial social-media hoots about “lowest goals per game ever” – kicked off, quite literally, with a superb match that shows you don’t necessarily need a load of goals when you’ve got a team ready and willing to spend 90 minutes just hoofing Claudio Caniggia high into the Milan sky.

Cameroon ended the match with nine men and three points to set them on their memorable way to the quarter-finals, while Argentina, like some kind of proto-Portugal, licked their many literal and metaphorical wounds and recovered sufficiently to somehow shithouse their own way into the final where they were finally thwarted once and for all by a West German lesser of two evils.

 

1994: Germany 1-0 Bolivia
The 1994 World Cup was absolutely tremendous, and its opening match was no different. Obviously, everybody vividly remembers Jurgen Klinsmann scoring the only goal as Germany famously edged out plucky Bolivia in a game that was in absolutely no way whatsoever overshadowed by an opening ceremony in which Diana Ross’ lip-syncing was every bit as magical as her goal-destroying penalty-shanking.

 

1998: Brazil 2-1 Scotland
We’re firmly into the golden era of World Cup openers now with what, 20 years on, remains the last great chapter of glorious heroic failure in Scotland’s Big Book of World Cup Misery.

It seems strange now when tournament summers in Scotland consist solely of waiting for the inevitable-but-no-less-enjoyable-for-that demise of England, but back then the Scots were regular guests at FIFA’s top table. At least for the first week or so.

And here they were, Colin Calderwood and Colin Hendry frustrating Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Bebeto. John Collins’ penalty looked like it might earn Scotland a famous point until Cafu’s shot ricocheted off Jim Leighton’s face and Tommy Boyd’s shoulder before bobbling agonisingly out of reach of Hendry’s desperate last-ditch lunge and into the net. Another first-round exit followed for Scotland, who at least haven’t had to endure that pain since.

 

2002: France 0-1 Senegal
Le grand fromage of opening games, edging out 1990’s video nasty and 1998’s knockabout slapstick farce to take top spot. France arrived in Seoul as reigning world and European champions and widely tipped to complete a major championship hat-trick. They were certainly expected to see off Senegal in the opening game.P apa Bouba Diop had other ideas, scoring the only goal to send shockwaves through the tournament from the very first game. And things got no better for the French, who departed Asia’s first World Cup with barely a Gallic shrug, scoring not a single goal as they finished bottom of Group A.

 

2006: Germany 4-2 Costa Rica
A switch back to the hosts getting the opening-night honour, but happily no return to those dreary goalless days of the 60s and 70s. Germany and Costa Rica got right into the World Cup party spirit with a gloriously daft game in which Miroslav Klose scored twice, obviously, and so too did Paulo Wanchope. Lovely, lovely stuff.

 

2010: South Africa 1-1 Mexico
GOAL BAFANA BAFANA! GOAL FOR SOUTHAFRICA! GOAL FOR ALL AFRICA! 
Mexico would later poop the party with an equaliser to silence the vuvuzelas. Not really. Nothing silenced the vuvuzelas. They haunt my dreams still.

 

2014: Brazil 3-1 Croatia
While the superbly entertaining 2014 group stage really caught fire the following day with a flying Robin van Persie and the Netherlands’ astonishing demolition job on Spain, there was more than a taste of what was to come with a fantastically entertaining and controversial clash between two lovely, lovely football teams.

Croatia stunned the hosts with an early opener before tournament poster boy Neymar swept home an equaliser. Then came the crucial moment, the softest of soft penalties. An incident which football journalism’s euphemism etiquette requires to be described thusly: Dejan Lovren was adjudged to have fouled Fred.

Neymar scored the penalty, Oscar added a wonderful solo effort in stoppage time, and another World Cup was up and running in fine style. Now let’s never speak of the 1970s again

 

https://www.football365.com/news/world-cup-openers-booting-caniggia-scottish-heartbreak-et-al

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Will Smith and Era Istrefi I think.

Will miss the opener due to work :(

Roll on Spain Portugal tomorrow, and 4 days off next week :cool:

Edited by Baptista_8

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Couldn't care less about opening ceremonies, I think Russia will edge this but wouldn't surprise me if Saudi dug in a bit and made it difficult

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1 hour ago, Rob1981 said:

We're about to find out if Russia are the worst World Cup host nation of all time.

I suspect they won't be quite as bad as South Africa 8 years ago... but not much better.

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Dunno, South Africa got 4 points in the end after beating France, only nudged out of qualifying on GD.

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Just what is the recent Russian history?  I keep hearing about how bad they are, but surely there must be something about them.

Didn't they have Capello at one stage?  

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13/2 for the 0-0 on bet365, all over that.

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4 minutes ago, Bliss Seeker said:

Just what is the recent Russian history?  I keep hearing about how bad they are, but surely there must be something about them.

Didn't they have Capello at one stage?  

Their two warm up friendlies against Austria and Turkey, they managed one shot on target. They've won just one match in their last ten, and whilst some were against tougher sides (Brazil, France, Argentina and Spain), they don't really have a defined system under Cherceshov. He will probably try and employ wing backs, but doesn't really have the players with the pace to do so, and they'll rely on aging centre backs to keep goals out.

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6 minutes ago, Nordan said:

What's the difference between BST and GMT?

BST is one hour ahead of GMT.

In the UK, we use BST from late March to late October, and GMT for the rest of the year.

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1 minute ago, CFuller said:

BST is one hour ahead of GMT.

In the UK, we use BST from late March to late October, and GMT for the rest of the year.

Thanks, had no idea. So GMT doesn't change with the daylight savings ****, it's always the same.

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ITV have got it live.  BBC have got a highlights show at 11pm or something, but this has been shunted to BBC2.  Then the full match replayed on BBC1 in the early hours.

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12 minutes ago, Baptista_8 said:

It's so weird being at work for the start of a World Cup :-/

I was working from home but I've got a conference call arranged by a non-football fan literally as it's kicking off :thdn:   Going to have to watch the build up and then pause the coverage for an hour then watch it on delay.  Rubbish.  On holiday from tomorrow though.

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13 minutes ago, Baptista_8 said:

It's so weird being at work for the start of a World Cup :-/

Yep, anti-climatic as ****. One of those moments you've been waiting for months but uh, can't watch it.

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Wait, what? You mean none of you are having a World Cup Pizza Party and a screening of the game...?!

*leaves thread*

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We've got a TV set up on the wall in the office for the games we're working for :cool:

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Mayiiiiiibuuuuyei Africa

Oh, no, they've gone with the boring, generic traditional theme this time.

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I was half-listening, they were talking about Russia... did Aluko just say Lewandowski played for Russia?...

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People look so weird walking around with those massive headphones.

1-0 Russia is my guess.

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1 minute ago, git2thachoppa said:

I was half-listening, they were talking about Russia... did Aluko just say Lewandowski played for Russia?...

She said a Saudi lad scored as many qualifying goals as Lewandowski I think

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it's time for Smolov to make his mark today :cool:

both teams the lowest ranked at the World Cup, Russia are 70th and Saudi Arabia are 67th in the FIFA rankings, not really expecting a classic but then again most opening games aren't that good

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6 minutes ago, TM said:

it's time for Smolov to make his mark today :cool:

both teams the lowest ranked at the World Cup, Russia are 70th and Saudi Arabia are 67th in the FIFA rankings, not really expecting a classic but then again most opening games aren't that good

Which opening games have been bad? They're usually epic upsets or goalfests.

This is Russia's best chance for goals and points, on the opening day. It's also Saudi Arabia's. Both have old, **** defences. I'm expecting it to be one of the more open matches.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Hey, I recognised that music from the Sterling interview! It's from Life Is Strange: Before The Storm! :D

Typical soppy 'journey' feature from ITV. Never change.

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1 minute ago, git2thachoppa said:

Which opening games have been bad? They're usually epic goalfests.

This is Russia's best chance for goals and points, on the opening day. It's also Saudi Arabia's. Both have old, **** defences. I'm expecting it to be one of the more open matches.

well from the above post, 1994 and 2010 were pretty boring.  Only interesting thing about the 2010 game was the commentator screaming that it was a "goal for all of Africa" when South Africa scored the opening goal which if I remember correctly was a cracking finish.  1990 was interesting as well, for Cameroon winning and then kicking the Argentina team all over the pitch to keep the lead :D

pretty sure Lahm scored a top corner goal in the 4-2 match in 2006 as well, so I guess not all of them are bad but it will be interesting to see if it's a cagey game or not

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