World Cup Daily Briefing: Spanish self-sabotage lights tournament fuse
Dan Fitch provides you with everything you need to know - and several things you don't - on the first day of the 2018 World Cup.
"The former Real Madrid captain’s only experience of management was a lone season in the Segunda Division with Oviedo in which he failed to secure promotion."
Today's games - Thursday, 14 June
Russia [1.45] v Saudi Arabia [10.5]; The Draw [4.5]
Kick off 16:00, Live on ITV
The hosts Russia will be looking to pick up a morale boosting opening victory against the rank outsiders Saudi Arabia and bring an end to a run of seven games without a win. Failure to do so will see their price of [1.48] to qualify from Group A skyrocket.
"Russia should come through this opener but there is no guarantee it will be a high scoring victory. In their last seven games, the World Cup hosts have only scored more than one goal in one match."
Opta stat of the day
"Russia are winless in their last five games at the World Cup (D2 L3)."
The draw between Russia and Saudi Arabia is [4.4].
What happened yesterday?
You might not think that much could have happened at the World Cup on the day before the tournament had even began, but you would have bargained without Spain reacting really badly to being rejected.
Spain sacked their manager Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday after it was revealed that he'd secretly been planning to waltz off into the sunset with Real Madrid, like some tawdry Love Island contestant. Having kicked Lopetegui to the kerb a mere 48 hours before their opening match against Portugal, the Spanish FA swiftly appointed their sporting director Fernando Hierro as their interim manager for the duration of the World Cup.
The former Real Madrid captain's only experience of management was a lone season in the Segunda Division with Oviedo in which he failed to secure promotion. Despite this lack of experience and the clear potential for divisions within the dressing room, Spain's odds to win the World Cup have remained curiously stable. It increased slightly yesterday, but has come back in to the original price of [7.4].
Spain's World Cup campaign has basically become a scientific experiment that will conclusively reveal whether managers are really important as we've always been told, or if any old passer-by could do a passable job.
Who will win the World Cup?
Brazil and Germany are the two nations ahead of Spain in the betting. The Brazilians shot in to [5.2] after an impressive 3-0 friendly win against Austria last weekend, while Germany's poor form since the qualifiers (W1 D3 L2) has seen them float out to [6.2].
Quote of the day
"When the president told me the possibility, I had three choices: to say no, another was to go and the third was to stay - to take a step forward for the Spanish federation and for Spanish football. I couldn't say no because I would not forgive myself."
Fernando Hierro on having to completely having to change his plans for the summer at the last minute.
Who'll be top goalscorer?
Neymar is the favourite to be the World Cup's top goalscorer at [10.0] after his brilliant goal against Austria on Sunday saw punters lump on. Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi are locked together as joint second favourites at [14.0].
The England team have arrived in Russia and had their first training session at their base in Repino.
Unlike in previous tournaments, in which England have pitched up with the likes of Bryan Robson, David Beckham or Wayne Rooney suffering from various broken bones, Gareth Southgate has made the revolutionary decision to pick players that are actually fit.
Marcus Rashford has been the only player to have missed training and that is thought to be a mere precaution, with the Manchester United player likely to be available for England's opening game against Tunisia on Monday. England are [1.45] to win their opening match in Group G.
What other sport is on today?
If you're a football fan frantically trying to work out how you're going to consume the steady drip of televised football that's coming our way over the next couple of days and the weekend, spare a thought for those who are fans of both football and golf.