Russian Federation beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in FIFA World Cup opener


Saudi Arabia's goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf fails to stop a goal during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The match was evenly contested for most of the first half as both teams adopted a cautious approach to build-up play.

Substitute Denis Cheryshev scored twice, with Yuri Gazinsky, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin also on target at a delirious Luzhniki Stadium.

The tempo slowed and the atmosphere flattened after the restart, giving the whole thing the feel of a friendly match.

Artem Senchenko, a 23-year-old bartender at Pivbar who used to train with CSKA Moscow as a striker from the age of six until he was 13, told The Straits Times: "Recent results have not been good but we want Russian Federation to do well and with talented players like Aleksandr Golovin and Fyodor Smolov, we believe the Sbornaya will at least beat Saudi Arabia 2-0".

Then, just as the game was drawing to a conclusion, Cheryshev waved the outside of his left boot to conjure a fourth goal, and just before full-time, Golovin's glorious free-kick gave him the goal his performance deserved.

The host nation will rely on the striker to provide the goods in front of goal as they hope to pick up a crucial victory.

Warning: Golovin 88′ Al-Jassim, 93′.

JUAN ANTONIO PIZZI, Saudi Arabia coach, on his players. The talismanic midfielder left the pitch after 24 minutes into the opener, and it seems like he's ruled out for the rest of the World Cup.

The first half saw few chances for either side, both sides missing at least three shots each.

In their first World Cup campaign since 2006, and searching for their first win at a World Cup since 1994, they will need to show a vast improvement if they are to take anything home from this competition.

It was a goal that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, seated alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino, and shake his hand.

Saudi Arabia, the second lowest ranked team in the tournament, looked hopelessly out of their depth as a superior Russian Federation side repeatedly overwhelmed their defence at the Luzhniki Stadium.

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Russian Federation scored more than twice as many goals in this game (five) as they did in the entire 2014 World Cup finals over three games (two).

The Gulf country finished second in the Group B of AFC qualifications, edging out Australia on account of a better goal difference.

71' - GOAL! Russia 3-0 Saudi Arabia (Dzuyba) Instant impact!

In a World Cup first, the video assistant referee system was available for the match between the tournament's lowest-ranked teams, though it wasn't used for an official review.

However, overall, it was an fantastic performance from the hosts right from the opening day ceremony to the first game of the World Cup.

In a performance beyond the wildest dreams of even the most ardent home fans, two goals from substitute Denis Cheryshev were the highlight as Russian Federation ended a seven-match run without a win in style.

Aleksandr Golovin's pace and guile was proving too much for the Saudis and even Alan Dzagoev's unfortunate exit early didn't hamper Russia's swagger as they went 2-0 up two minutes from time with a cool finish from substitute Denis Cheryshev. But player of the match is a 22-year-old Alexander Golovin.

"We are very disappointed by the defeat", Ezzat said, according to the Al-Youm Assabaa newspaper. I was relaxed yesterday and I'm relaxed today because I know my players.

"We have been studying our opponents from day one". 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. "It is just a different adversary".

"There are no words to express what I'm feeling right now".

Of his performance and the team's, he said, "I could never have dreamed anything like this".

You could not fault their work rate with the likes of Taisir Al-Jassam and Yahya Al Shehri impressing at times, but Saudi Arabia looked well off the pace.

"As for our strategy, we must change".