The status of the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Arabia as petroleum superpowers doesn’t necessarily translate to world cup betting. That is to say, neither is among the most popular or skilled teams, but they will nonetheless share the responsibility of kicking off the 2018 FIFA World Cup just like they share about a quarter of the world’s crude oil production. And it is a fitting fixture given how just this October King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made the first official trip to Russia (or the USSR) by a reigning Saudi monarch, to the Tsar Of All Rus president Vladimir Putin.
- 14 June 2018
- 18:00 MSK (UTC+3) Russia vs. Saudi Arabia
- Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
So the last shall be first, and the first last, as the man said, and that will prove true when Russian and Arabia Saudi, the lowest-ranked teams in the entire competition meet mano-a-mano. Russia ranks No. 65 in the world while Saudi Arabia is an ever so slightly better No. 63. The Saudi Football Federation preparations are underway to make sure all national team players under recently appointed manager Juan Antonio Pizzi – who replaced Edgardo Bauza (who in turn replaced Bert Van Marwijk) are mentally ready for the tournament which starts in June 2018, and the transfers of Saudi players abroad on loan deals is still a very plausible scenario being proposed by the Saudi Federation.
The hosts have, all things considered, a pretty good World Cup betting chance of getting off on the right foot. Russia earned, as do tournament hosts, a top seed in Group A, and avoided a European opponent. With two teams from each group advancing to the round of 16, Russia is in a good position to make it through for the first time since 1986, when they were still the Soviet Union. Common wisdom has it that the hosting team must at the very least reach the knockout stage to spare themselves embarrassment, as well as Putin’s modern equivalent to a trip to Siberia. FIFA president Gianni Infantino is betting the World Cup will be a smash, but as the New York Times points out, “official support for the World Cup is rooted in a desire to project national pride, and power, to the world. If that wanes, the electricity of the tournament might go with it.”
Only eight days after the World Cup opening game, OPEC and its allies led by Russia and including Saudi Arabia are to meet in Vienna to decide if they should to extend supply cuts. Crude oil futures jumped in New York and London on Friday after the two countries agreed on Thursday to prolong supply restrictions to shore up a glut. Hopefully, whatever the outcome of the match is, it won’t have a negative effect on the real world. Seriously, the last thing we need is another Football War. On other hand, if the allegations about how Russia got the gig in the first place are true, then the hosts should have clear path to the second round, World Cup betting odds be damned.