Hosting the tournament for the first time in their history, Russia has a puncher’s chance on home turf this summer but given their World Cup betting odds and recent struggles in international competitions, the RFS (Russian Football Union) might find its trophy hopes separated by an iron curtain.
The irony there is that since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1990, the Russian Federation has failed to make it out of the group stage in the three World Cups it’s qualified for, earning just eight of a possible 27 points. Before that, the country’s best showing at the competition was a semifinal appearance in 1966 and in seven World Cups since, they haven’t made it past the quarters.
Taking over management duties for the national team after Russia’s last-place finish in Group B at the 2016 Euros, Stanislav Cherchesov hasn’t had the smoothest of appointments since he took stewardship of the squad in August of 2016. Russia has won just five matches in 18 attempts under the journeyman manager and they failed to make it out of the group at the Confederations Cup last summer.
Drawing one of the easiest groups in the tournament, though, there is some positivity about Russia’s chances to advance to the knockout round but all factors considered, the Round of 16 is likely the ceiling for the World Cup hosts.
Russia’s Odds to Win the World Cup: +6000
Will Russia become the first team to hoist the World Cup trophy on home soil since France in 1998? Nyet. At 60/1 in the odds to win the whole thing, the Russians have already lost a fair amount of traction since November when they opened at 33/1.
Simply put, this team is just not good enough to get it done on the world stage. The majority of their players – who play exclusively in the Russian Premier League – have next to no experience playing against world-class footballers and their lack of organization at the back could be detrimental when facing skilled attacking forces.
Barring a massive cheating/doping/fixing/bribing scandal, Russia will not be celebrating a World Cup win in 2018, sorry Vladimir.
Russia’s Odds to Win Group A: +225
Winners of just three games since the beginning of 2017, Russia has to turn things around in a big way if it’s going to best a really good Uruguayan side in Group A.
Not eager to join South Africa as the only host nation that’s failed to advance to the knockout stage, Russia will lean heavily on captain Igor Akinfeev between the pipes as it’s very possible that this group comes down to goal differential.
I would need much better odds and a few shots of vodka to bet this line, though, so let’s move on to some wagers I actually like for Russia.
Russia’s Best World Cup Bets:
As I was saying, Group A is Uruguay’s to lose. The Sky Blue will be disappointed to drop points at any juncture during the group stage and their -150 odds to take first are mighty appealing.
Assuming Uruguay handles business, second place will be up for grabs and that seems like the perfect spot for Russia to settle with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia sending somewhat underwhelming outfits to the tournament.
At +150, we’re receiving nearly as much value as we would betting on Russia to win the group but in my opinion, it’s far easier to fathom the Russians finishing as runners-up in Group A.
Another wager I’m going to have a go at is Russia and Saudi Arabia to draw the tournament opener at odds of +380. World Cup icebreakers have a tendency to fall well short of expectations but as one of the worst-rated matches of the entire group stage, those expectations should already be very low.
Motivation will be high for the hosts with the opener looking like their best chance at nabbing three points but laying -315 lumber on a Russian win in Game 1 seems like pure, unbridled insanity when you consider their 27.78 percent win rate under Cherchesov.
Russia’s Player to Watch: Fyodor Smolov
Unquestionably Russia’s most gifted scorer and talisman, Fyodor Smolov cannot have a quiet World Cup if his team is to have any kind of success.
The 28-year-old striker has scored 63 goals for Krasnodar in 99 RPL appearances since his unsuccessful tenure at Dynamo Moscow and he’s netted 12 times for his country in 30 international appearances.
He and Artem Dzyuba are the only men named to the 28-man squad who have more than 10 international goals for Russia so they’ll have to be clinical when chances fall their way.
If you’re looking to turn a profit on this tip, you might consider betting Smolov at +125 to be Russia’s top goalscorer.
Russia’s Road to the world cup:
If they weren’t hosting, I seriously doubt Russia would have made it out of European qualifying. They’ve struggled mightily since floundering at the Euros and with teams like Italy, Holland and Wales all failing to qualify, getting into the World Cup through Europe was no simple task.
Lucky to avoid any European teams in their group, Russia will likely have to face either Portugal or Spain in the Round of 16. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that the Russians will have a tough time getting by either Iberian nation.
|1||Igor Akinfeev||GK||CSKA Moscow||104|
|20||Vladimir Gabulov||GK||Club Brugge||10|
|4||Sergi Ignashevich||DEF||CSKA Moscow||120|
|13||Fyodor Kudryashov||DEF||Rubin Kazan||17|
|14||Vladimir Granat||DEF||Rubin Kazan||11|
|5||Andrei Semyonov||DEF||Akhmat Grozny||6|
|3||Ilya Kutepov||DEF||Spartak Moscow||6|
|2||Mario Fernandes||DEF||CSKA Moscow||3|
|9||Alan Dzagoev||MID||CSKA Moscow||55|
|19||Aleksandr Samedov||MID||Spartak Moscow||46|
|17||Aleksandr Golovin||MID||CSKA Moscow||17|
|11||Roman Zobnin||MID||Spartak Moscow||10|
|16||Anton Miranchuk||MID||Lokomotiv Moscow||4|
|22||Artem Dzyuba||FWD||Arsenal Tula||22|
|15||Aleksei Miranchuk||FWD||Lokomotiv Moscow||16|