Russian president Vladimir Putin holding the FIFA world cup trophy at a pre tournament ceremony in Moscover in September 2017

We’re a little more than a week into the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and so far Russia has surprised experts and fans alike. Expectations were low at best. Because of recent setbacks, including a disastrous performance at the 2016 UEFA European Championship and injuries sustained by key players, the federation ranked a dismal 66th place among Fédération Internationale de Football Association teams—its lowest position ever. The only reason it didn’t have to qualify to compete was because Russia is the host nation. (This is the first time in its 88-year history, by the way, that the World Cup has been held in Eastern Europe.)

And yet Russia currently ranks first in its group after defeating Saudi Arabia (5-0) and Egypt (3-1), defying predictions that the federation would be eliminated right out of the gate. Left winger Denis Cheryshev has so far scored three goals, more than any other player in the 32-team tournament except Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

It’s still early, and the team has an uphill battle ahead of it. We’ll see how Russia fares when it goes up against group favorite Uruguay on Monday. As for which team might win the Cup, sophisticated predictive models using portfolio theory and the historical performance of players are pointing to France beating Spain in the final.