Rewind to the round of sixteen match at the FIFA World Cup 2010. The winner secures a place in the quarter finals, the losers get the tickets to reach back home. A high-stake game with two of Europe’s best facing each other. In the 38th minute, Germany leads England by two goals to one. Till the 36th minute, the scoresheet had read 2-0. The English team is just building up pace and battling hard for the equaliser. The game is happening right outside the penalty box of the German goal. Philip Lahm’s tackle makes the ball land up exactly at Frank Lampard’s feet. Lampard shoots. The ball hits the crossbar, bounces well inside the goal line and bounces out. But the Referee denies the goal. Lampard is in disbelief. The commentators can not believe it either. “Oh, it’s in! it’s so far in…,” screams the BBC commentator. England is denied a goal. The Germans pounce on the opportunity and the match finishes with a score line of 4-1 in favour of the German side.
Although the margin of their defeat was a huge one, newspapers across the globe were full of headlines asking whether that goal could have changed the course of the match. This time around, there will no be such controversy. For the first time, VAR or the Video Assistant Referee will be watching the video clips of the match and their inputs will help FIFA get rid of any such mistakes. Although the time taken for the video review will add to the added time after completion of the mandatory 90 minutes, it is nevertheless a welcome step.
The 2018 edition of the FIFA world cup will kick off on Thursday with Russia taking on Asian powerhouse Saudi Arabia. With Egypt and Uruguay as the other group members, only a couple of major shocks can see either of these teams making it to the next round. But, with Mohammed Salah unsure of playing in the initial phase for Egypt, there is still a little hope which both the teams will look to pounce on. Both will try to start on a winning note on Thursday.
While Saudi Arabia will look to make the most of Russia’s weak defence, the hosts will still be the favourites against the Asian side that lacks experience and has a poor record at the world stage. With formidable midfielders and forwards in Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin and Fedor Smolov, Russia’s strength lies in their quick transition between attack and defence. But Saudi’s star playmaker Yahya Al Shehri will be keen on exploring Russia’s weak line of defence and that will make the opening match an interesting affair.
Russia probable Playing XI: Igor Akinfeev (Goalkeeper), Aleksandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksei Miranchuk, Fyodor Smolov, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Yury Gazinsky, Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Samedov, Igor Smolnikov
Saudi Arabia probable Playing XI: Abdullah Al-Mayouf,Mansoor Al-Harbi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi,Salman Al-Faraj, Yahya Al-Shehri, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Abdullah Otayf, Taisir Al-Jassim, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yasser Al-Mosailem
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Andrey Lunev
Defenders: Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Andrey Semenov, Sergei Ignashevich, Mario Fernandes, Igor Smolnikov
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinskiy, Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev, Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov , Anton Miranchuk, Denis Cheryshev
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba, Aleksey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov.
Saudi Arabia squad:
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al Owais, Yasser Al Mosailem, Abdullah Al Mayouf
Defenders: Mansoor Al Harbi, Yasser Al Shahrani, Mohammed Al Breik, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Ali Al Bulaihi
Midfielders: Abdullah Al Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al Jassim, Houssain Al Mogahwi, Salman Al Faraj, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Salem Al Dawsari, Yahya Al Shehri, Fahad Al Muwallad
Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri