Tuesday – Saint Petersburg. The host nation will attempt to be the first side at this 2018 FIFA World Cup to take maximum points from their opening two fixtures when they take on Egypt in the Group A clash.
The Egyptian side will without any shred of doubt provide a far greater, and sterner test than the Saudi Arabian team put up in the opening match of the World Cup. For Egypt, the match is about as close to a must-win as you can get, lose the match, and Egypt will be the first side eliminated from Russia.
Russian hopes of extending the place at the summit of Group A will again focus around the form of Aleksander Golovin, the playmaker who completed more passes than any other Russian player in the opening match, along with creating five goalscoring opportunities, the most from any Russian or Soviet player since 1970. It is form like this that has Golovin on the radar on a host of top European sides, most notably Juventus, who are said to be stepping up interest levels and could make a blockbuster offer extremely soon.
As for the Egyptians, all hopes and the eyes of the world will be on Mo Salah, the Liverpool man who will return to the international side after missing the last five matches due to a shoulder injury inflicted by Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final. His level of match fitness will no doubt face scrutiny, but I’m sure his mere presence will provide a huge confidence boost to his side. Russian goalkeeper and captain Akinfeev has already warned his team-mates against shifting focus or deviating the game plan to make special dispensation for the playmaker. He would rather Russia stuck to the methods of high pressing and high tempo that proved so impressive in the opening game.
My feelings on this match are that I foresee a far closer match for the Russians, but ultimately the same end result, 3 points for the hosts. I fancy Russia to book their place in the next round and send Egypt crashing out in the process. Another positive is we may just see a full stadium, the sight of thousands of empty pockets of seats at all other games must be a concern to FIFA, a concern that had been well voiced in the run-up.
RUSSIA 2 EGYPT 1