Russia got off to an excellent start as they cruised to victory over Saudi Arabia and they look set to continue the strong record of World Cups hosts, as of the six since 1998 (2002 had co-hosts in South Korea and Japan) five have topped their group. Only South Africa failed to do so, in 2010, and they only narrowly missed out on qualification for the next round goal due to goal difference. We expect Russia to make it two from two as they host an Egyptian side that will be largely reliant on Mo Salah, who wasn’t even fit enough to come off the bench in their opener with Uruguay following the injury he sustained in the Champions League final.
The Egyptians had a long return trip to their opening match and it’s the same again here as they’re set to travel more than any other team in the group stages. With a short four-day turnaround that could cost them here. Particularly since, if we exclude sides that we have ranked in the top 20 in the world, Russia have won 23 of their last 31 at home. Aleksandr Golovin was excellent against the Saudis, getting on the scoresheet and providing two assists and the rumour mills have been churning subsequently as he’s been linked with a move to the likes of Man Utd, Juventus, Arsenal and Chelsea so we expect him to be chief tormentor once again.
Egypt lost three of five winless games in the run up to the tournament as they managed just two goals across these and they’ve also lost 10 of their last 17 away. They don’t tend to suffer heavy defeats though as six of these losses were just by a single goal and 11 of these matches saw fewer than three goals. Four of Russia’s last nine home wins were by 1-0 scorelines and that’s one we fancy again here, with Egypt unlikely to veer to far from the defensive tactics they displayed against Uruguay.