The host nation of the World Cup hasn’t won the tournament since 1996, and that streak is expected to increase this summer. Russia is hosting the best football teams on the planet for the first time, and will field a squad that is currently ranked 70th in the FIFA World Rankings. Because of the lack of talent, as well as inexperience in the back line, it might be a good idea to fully fade the hosts in the first round of World Cup action.
Russia World Cup Odds
Russia is currently listed at +6500 to win the World Cup, getting a massive boost from being on home turf. Those odds are better than the odds for Poland, Mexico and Denmark, all of whom are ranked among the top 15 teams in the world. Again, Russia is the 70th ranked team in the tournament, slightly ahead of Macedonia, El Salvador, and Syria.
While winning the tournament is unlikely, the Russians will have a modest goal- advance out of Group A. Other than South Africa in 2010, every single host nation has advanced out of their group. And luckily for Russia, Group A is by far the easiest group in the tournament.
Russia is priced at -235 to advance out of Group A, a strong favorite alongside Uruguay. The thought process here is that Uruguay is the shoe-in to advance, Russia will struggle, and ultimately Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be overmatched and bow out early.
For that to happen, Russia must secure points in their opener against Saudi Arabia. Russia is favored in the opener, getting -217 on the three-way moneyline. Russia is an even smaller favorite against Mohamed Salah and Egypt, getting +112 as a moneyline favorite. They’re the underdog on the spread, priced at +112 giving .5 goals with Egypt a a slim -127 favorite getting .5 goals.
Russia World Cup Predictions
Why am I so strongly against the host this year? It’s a combination of injuries, lack of scoring and overwhelming pressure.
In 2016, Russia had three of their most experienced center backs all retire from international football. Twins Alexey and Vasili Berezutsky, as well as Sergey Ignashevic, were key members of the international team, the latter two appearing in Russia’s squad at the 2014 World Cup. Things are so bad, Ignashevic, who is 39, was recalled to the squad to add depth heading into the tournament. Without key pieces, manager Stanislav Cherchesov has been forced to rely upon a revolving mix of young defenders. Georgy Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin were supposed to be among that group, but serious injuries will keep them out of action, forcing even younger and even more inexperienced players into action. It’s still unknown exactly who Cherchesov will start at the back.
Injuries are not exclusive to the back line. Alexander Kokorin is an elite talent, scoring 19 goals with Zenit St. Petersburg before going down with a serious knee injury.
But even if he was healthy, despite his talents, Kokorin was not a lock to make the squad. Kokorin drew criticism in Russia after photos showed him partying in Monaco after the team’s early exit at EURO 2016, and he and Cherchesov also have a shaky relationship.
In fact, Cherchesov has shaky relationships with multiple high-profile Russian players. Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow) and Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow) are both experienced Russian midfielders who are not on the initial squad. The pair have combined for over 100 caps, with Glushakov playing all three games for Russia at the 2014 World Cup.
Russia will play three at the back, and likely try to grind out low-scoring games with possession. Russia has not won an international football game since October, when they bagged a 4-2 friendly win over South Korea. Two of Russia’s goals were own goals scored by South Koreans.
Weak at the front, and weak at the back. Luckily for them, Vladimir Putin has realistic expectations for his squad:
“As for the Russian national football team, unfortunately, I have to admit that our players haven’t had great results in recent times,” Putin said in a recent interview. “But we are pinning our hopes on them, all the Russian fans hope that the players will put in a decent performance. We hope they will play beautiful football and fight until the end.”
Spoiler alert: they won’t. This is a team has not won a match in eight months, and I will take pleasure in fading them throughout the Group Stage.
Source: Heavy Sports