Russia President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in Russian welcoming the crowd and opening up the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup.
Russia comprehensively thrashed Saudi Arabia, 5-0, in the opening game of its home World Cup. Yuri Gazinsky scored on a header 12 minutes in, and afterward Saudi Arabia could offer little resistance.
Russia vs Saudi Arabia All Goals:
Artem Dzyuba (71′)
Denis Cheryshev (43′, 90′ +1)
Iury Gazinsky (12′)
Aleksandr Golovin (90′ +4)
Russia’s second, third and fourth goals were all by substitutes: one by Artem Dzyuba and two by Denis Cheryshev. With time running out, Aleksandr Golovin got a fifth goal on a free kick, past a badly tired Saudi defense.
Saudi Arabia, a team whose players are virtually all based in their obscure home league, offered an air of mystery. But that was before the game. It became clear very quickly that they were no match for a Russian team that itself has not been a worldbeater in recent years.
[Need some help? Here’s a breakdown of all 32 teams.]
Gazinsky’s header foiled the Saudi plan to work the counterattack, and the team seldom got the ball even deep into Russia’s territory after that. Russia itself took over the counterattacking and found the goal at its mercy time and time again.
More troubling to Russia was an apparent hamstring injury to midfielder Alan Dzagoev. But that did allow the team to bring in Cheryshev, who duly scored moments later.
Even at halftime, the Saudis looked broken, and it did not get better. Dzyuba scored on another header, likewise just after entering the game, then Cheryshev added his second in the 90th minute.
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If that late goal seemed unfair to the Saudis, it got worse a moment later when Goliovin added No. 5 on a free kick in injury time.
“I think that a poor performance explains the result,” said Saudi Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, adding, perhaps unnecessarily, “As for our strategy, we must change.”
It was the perfect start for the host nation, although its remaining group games, against Egypt and Uruguay, will be much sterner challenges.
“Egypt will be a different game, city and stadium,” said Manager Stanislav Cherchesov. “We need to meticulously prepare ourselves.”
As for Saudi Arabia, if it manages even a 2-0 loss, say, in its remaining games, it will seem like an impressive accomplishment.
Iury Gazinsky header is first goal of Russia 2018
Denis Cheryshev doubles the lead just before the break
Artem Dzyuba scores moments after his introduction in the second half
Joy and pain
The extremes of emotion the World Cup can yield have been on display here in Moscow. Russia will be on a massive high, while Saudi Arabia may struggle to recover from this stunning defeat.