By all accounts, the mood surrounding Russia’s chances in their own World Cup is so pessimistic, the country has just leapfrogged Scotland on the official FIFA Fatalistic Order of Merit.

The legendary Moscow-born custodian, Lev Yashin, is portrayed on much of the tournament’s bumph and paraphernalia but nobody is holding out much hope that his modern day comrades will become icons of a new Russian age.

From the days of Yashin and the CCCP, it’s now a case of critical bashing and OMG as various hands-over-the-eyes commentators anticipate something of a humiliation on the home front.

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Exaggeration is the official language of today’s rapid-fire online community and according to the judges, jurors and executioners on various internet sites and social media soapboxes, this afternoon’s opening match of the 2018 showpiece between Russia and Saudi Arabia is, in modern parlance, going to be “like, the worst game EVER.”

History often shows that when the pomp, the ceremony and the kitsch-ridden nods to local culture is over, these first day matches can be cagey affairs.

Belgium’s 1-0 win over Argentina in the opening match of Spain ’82, for instance, was the first time a goal had been scored in the curtain raiser since the 1962 tournament in Chile.

The general consensus is that Russia versus the Saudis is, as they say in the howfs of Moscow, going to be honkin’. Only time will tell, of course. But you never know, the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition may serve up a cracking spectacle of attacking abandon. Then again?

The Russians are in the midst of a fairly modest run and don’t seem to have won a game since the Red Army retook the strategically important city of Kharkov.

Flippancy aside, a run of seven matches without a win in the event’s build up stretching back to October has done little for morale. As the host nation, Russia qualified automatically and a lack of competitive action has led to them slipping to No 70 on the world rankings.

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In a group which also includes Egypt and Uruguay, victory over Saudi Arabia today is almost a necessity. They will be hoping to get a bit of that host nation bounce too. In the 20 previous World Cups there have been 16 hosts, including the dual hosts of Japan and South Korea in 2002.

Six times the host nation has won the tournament, eight times they have made the final and on 13 occasions the hosts have at least made the semi-finals. Only South Africa, who staged the event in 2010, have failed to make it out of the group stages.

Russia’s odds of doing anything remotely heroic would appear longer than the Trans-Siberian Railway but they will be eager to prove the many doubters wrong in their own back yard.

“We’re realists,” said the Zenit St Petersburg striker, Artyom Dzyuba. “We’re not favourites to win the World Cup, but we want to get out of the group and we’re playing at home.

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“We want to prove to everyone, and most of all to ourselves, that we can play football, so that the country can be proud of us. We’re a football country, not just an ice hockey or basketball or volleyball country, but a football one too. We’ll put every effort into getting out of the group, to start with, and we’ll only start fantasising after that.”

The Saudis, meanwhile, are making their first appearance in a World Cup for 12 years.

Since making the last 16 on their debut in the tournament back in 1994, the Green Falcons have won none and lost seven of their last nine matches on the game’s biggest stage including a calamitous 8-0 drubbing by Germany which just about caused oil prices to plummet.

Pop star Robbie Williams is set to woo those in the Luzhniki Stadium with a rousing rendition of Let Me Entertain You during the opening ceremony. The match that follows, then, will at least be a welcome escape from Williams’ grinning posturings.

This clash between two natural resource superpowers has already been dubbed ‘El Gasico’.

And you never know. If it ends up in a 4-3 blockbuster after all the downbeat predictions, then the Russians and the Saudis will have put a few folks’ gas at a peep.