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World Cup Football Tips – 14th & 15th June
by the Cheeky Punter
The 2018 World Cup Finals will get underway with a spectacular opening ceremony in Moscow on the 14th June and in action in that first game will be the host nation Russia, taking on Saudi Arabia.
The first game of the tournament has often been a damp squib, with several games finishing 0-0, but there have been some surprise wins too, including Belgium defeating Argentina in 1982, France losing to Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon’s shock 1-0 win over Argentina at Italia 90.
The remaining game in Group A takes place on Friday with Egypt and Uruguay locking horns in a game that will see Luis Suarez return to the World Cup after his infamous bite on Giorgio Chiellini ended his involvement in 2014 prematurely. Egypt’s hopes seem to rest on whether Liverpool superstar Mo Salah can recover from a shoulder injury in time for the game.
The other two games on Friday both come from Group B with a low-key affair between Morocco and Iran first up, but it is the clash between Portugal and Spain later on in the evening which should be the first really ‘big’ clash of the World Cup finals as the two Iberian giants go head to head.
2018 World Cup Tips: Thursday 14th June
June 14, 2018
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
June 14, 2018
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
The two teams have met just once before, in a friendly back in 1993 when Saudi Arabia were the 4-2 victors.
Russia have qualified for 11 World Cup’s. Their best ever performance was 4th in 1966 when England won.
Saudi Arabia have qualified for their fifth World Cup Finals, their first since 2006. Their best ever performance was in USA ’94 when they reached the Round of 16.
Players to watch include Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and Yahya Al-Shehri of Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia stars Alan Dzagoev, Fyodor Smolov and Alexandr Golovin.
Russia’s World Cup warm up schedule could not have gone much worse, they’ve lost four of their last six games, with only draws against Spain and Turkey in that run and they have just one win (over South Korea in November 2017) in their last ten games. Hardly the form a host nation would want in the run up to a tournament.
However, they face a Saudi Arabia side that have lost their last three games, although they did put up a creditable display in their 2-1 defeat to Germany in Leverkusen on Friday June 8. The Saudi’s squad of largely home-based players may not be the most famous, but they do have some talented players, notably Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, who has 28 goals in just 40 caps for his country.
In terms of two top sides, this World Cup opener lacks the sparkle of some of the other opening games of modern times and while the onus will be on Russia to attack, their relatively new defence, completely rebuilt following the retirement of Ignashevich and the Berezutskyi twins after Euro 2016, has looked shaky at times.
I predict a nervy opener here of few chances and perhaps just the one goal, which I think will go to the home side.
The two teams have met just once previously in a friendly game in Egypt back in August 2006, with Uruguay coming out on top with a 2-0 win over the home side.
Uruguay won the 1930 and 1934 World Cup Finals and have also achieved three 4th placed finishes. They will be making their 13th World Cup Finals appearance.
Egypt will be making their third appearance at a World Cup Finals (1934 and 1990). They are yet to win a game in the finals, losing two and drawing two of their four games played.
Star men to watch for Uruguay include Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin and Jose Giminez. Egypt’s ace is Mo Salah, though he may not be fit in time for the opening game.
Uruguay haven’t had much of a warm up for the World Cup, they won the China cup back in March defeating Wales 1-0 in the final, but their only warm up game has been a 3-0 win over Uzbekistan in Montevideo.
Egypt have had three warm up games, drawing with Kuwait and Colombia and then they were humbled 3-0 by a strong Belgium team. It is also worth noting that Egypt could be without their main star player with Mo Salah’s fitness still a big doubt ahead of this opening clash for the African side.
Against a defence like Uruguay, which boasts the Atletico Madrid first-choice pairing of Godin and Giminez, let alone a strike force of Cavani and Suarez, Egypt are going to struggle with Salah. Without him, their chances here look bleak.
Even if Salah is fit, I think he could be a real doubt here and as such, I am backing Uruguay to get their World Cup campaign off to a solid start with a comfortable win to nil here.
Morocco have met Iran twice before but don’t have a good record in the fixture. Iran won 2-0 in1978 and then the teams drew 1-1 in 2002, both in Iran.
Morocco have qualified for their fifth FIFA World Cup Final tournament, their first since 1998 and their best finish was a Round of 16 place in 1986 in Mexico.
Iran will also be making their fifth appearance at a World Cup Finals, but they are yet to get out of the opening stage in any of their previous four appearances.
Players to watch include Morocco’s Medhi Benatia, Hakim Ziyech and Karim El Ahmadi. Iran’s main talents include Masoud Shojaei, Sardar Azmoun and Ashkan Dejagah.
Group B gets underway on Friday afternoon with an intriguing clash between Morocco and Iran, two teams who come into the World Cup with some solid form behind them. Since June 2017, Iran have played 14 times but lost just twice (against Tunisia and Turkey) and in Carlos Queiroz, they have an experienced manager who has worked at the highest level for many years.
Morocco’s form is even better as they have won seven and drawn two of their last nine games and they have defeated Servia, Slovakia, South Korea and the Ivory Coast in that run. They play their last friendly on Saturday against Estonia in Tallinn, before heading to Russia.
Although Morocco may have the slightly more famous names playing for them, I feel that Iran have some very solid players and the attacker Azmoun may well be fielding a few calls from interested clubs by the end of the tournament.
This is going to be a tough group for both these teams with Spain and Portugal lying in wait and as such, I think both teams will go for it here, but I think the best option is likely to be the draw.
The Iberian rivals have met a total of 36 times previously, Spain have won 18 of those games with 12 games drawn and Portugal have won just 6 matches.
Spain have qualified for every World Cup since 1978 and 15 in total. They were winners back in 2010 in South Africa and earned fourth place in 1950.
Portugal will make their seventh World Cup Finals appearance this summer. Their best performance was a third-place finish in 1966 and a fourth-place finish in 2006.
Both teams are littered with stars including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Bernardo Silva while Spain include Andres Iniesta, Isco, David Silva, Diego Costa and David de Gea.
For me, this is the first real big game of the World Cup Finals and it should be a cracker as not only do two European giants lock horns, it is essentially a rare Iberian derby game, which should add plenty of spice to the encounter.
Portugal are the current European Champions, have lost just one of their last 18 games (against the Netherlands in March) and they also have a world class superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo, who just so happens to play his domestic football in Spain and who will be desperate to inspire his team to a win over several of his team mates.
Since losing 2-0 to Italy in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, Spain have been unbeaten in their next 19 games and have racked up wins over Argentina, Italy, France and Belgium in that run. Their recent form thoush has seen them draw three of their last four games, including a home draw with Switzerland in their penultimate World Cup friendly (they play Tunisia on June 9th to round off a 3-game warm up period).
This should be a cracker and I can see it being a game where both teams do find the net, but as much as Portugal are strong and talented, Spain for me just have that added depth in defence and midfield and I think that will be the deciding factor here as I am taking the Spanish to claim a narrow win to begin their campaign.
The Cheeky Punter is an ex professional online sports bettor and trader with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He has worked for a number of top bookmakers including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral. He's also written for a number of leading news outlets including the Guardian, i (newspaper) and Soccer Lens. More about him here.