Can Russia reach the knockout stage of their own World Cup?
Russia will shortly be hosting the World Cup for the very first time.
But the cold reality is that they will be one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament. Even Panama and Tunisia are above them.
Russia have fallen to 66th in the world, having peaked at number nine when they reached the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championships.
The days of Andrei Arshavin, Alexei Smerten and Roman Pavlyuchenko are long-gone.
Success will nonetheless by demanded by the Russian powers. So how far can they get?
The hosts can feel somewhat fortunate about the group draw. Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will join them in Group A.
And the fixtures appear favourable too. Russia will play the Saudis first, then Mohamed Salah and Egypt, before a final group game against Uruguay.
The odds say Uruguay are favourites to top the group at 10/11, so it’s likely Stanislav Cherchesov’s men will be fighting for second.
The first match against Saudi Arabia will be crucial in determining how far Russia can go. The Saudi’s are ranked lower, but only by one spot at 67.
It’s the opening game of the tournament, it’s their best chance of victory, and the host nation will be out to impress.
Assuming they win, it will then come down to the game versus Salah and Egypt. Our traders have Russia as 19/20 favourites to win that match, with 1/3 on offer for them to progress.
At 46 in the world, the Egyptians are certainly within Russia’s range. But in Salah they have arguably the most sensational striker in the world right now and they could end Russia’s dreams early.
But assuming Russia do come through that test and qualify from the group in second place, they’ll meet the winners of Group B.
And unfortunately for them, that’s a problem. They’re likely to play either Spain or Portugal.
So, can Russia reach the knockout stages of their home tournament? Possibly, but it’s far from certain.
Will they get any further than the second round? We’re going to say no.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing