The World Cup is underway and Russia are off to a flying start following a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Tipped as one of the worst teams at the tournament – and definitely not as good as past outfits, such as their Euro 2008 semi-final squad – the hosts were still expected to get over the line against their Asian opponents.
The FIFA rankings reflect that it was never going to be a particularly high-quality match, though something a little more even between the teams ranked 67th and 70th might have been on the cards.
Still, the result is another sign that the World Cup is ridiculously hard to predict.
Unless, of course, you’re English football manager Harry Redknapp.
Appearing on Yahoo Sports’ daily World Cup show ‘The 32’ on the morning of the opening game, the 71-year-old thought Saudi Arabia could put up a bit of a fight at Luzhniki Stadium.
“I expect a tight game. Saudi Arabia, I think they’ll make it very difficult for Russia,” Redknapp said.
“I saw Russia in the Euros and it was the worst Russian team I’d ever seen. I thought they were dreadful. Old, slow.
“So Saudi Arabia, they could pull off the first shock of the tournament today.”
‘The 32’ is hosted in front of fans from all 32 World Cup teams, and Redknapp felt bad for Dimitri that he didn’t think much of his Russian team.
But that’s when he threw an unlikely prediction out – one that would pay off.
“Dimitri, I’m sorry about that,” Redknapp said.
“But you’ll probably win 5-0 with me having said that.”
That they did, with Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin turning a 3-0 lead into a 5-0 win with two magnificent strikes in injury time.
Saudi Arabia had indeed started the match well, as Redknapp forecast they might, but Russia made the most of their chances throughout the 90 minutes.