Written off and widely ridiculed by their countrymen, now that was some way to respond to your critics. Russia opened the World Cup with a stylish display as the tournament’s lowest ranked side enjoyed an opening night high.
Labelled as the worst Russian side there has ever been and potentially the weakest ever host nation to compete, Stanislav Cherchesov’s team looked anything like the no-hopers they stand accused of being.
Ranked at an all-time low and without a win in seven in the build-up, they made up for lost time.
The team described as feeble in most areas and lacking in genuine quality pulled off the biggest first-game World Cup win since Italy beat the United States 7-1 in Rome in 1934.
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There’s no disguising the fact they did only beat an extremely limited and disorganised Saudi Arabia, but a display which oozed confidence was a far cry from the team which were on a downward spiral going into the country’s biggest few sporting weeks.
As Robbie Williams belted out Let Me Entertain You minutes before kick-off, the Russians took it upon themselves to thrill the home crowd. Lethal, stylish and some wonderful goals, this wasn’t what anyone was expecting.
Two substitutes shone with three goals in the straight-forward 5-0 win, putting the shackles on their opponents who offered little in the way of resistance in Moscow.
It took just 12 minutes for the World Cup’s first goal to arrive, and what time to chose to score your first goal for your country.
After a flurry of early corners the excellent Roman Zobnin delivered a pin-point cross and Yury Gazinsky wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to raise the curtain.
He guided his header back across the goalkeeper with the Saudi marking non-existent and the 28-year-old had the hosts up and running.
Great start for Russia but it will be a different story when they come against a tougher team than Saudi Arabia who put up a strong argument for the World Cup NOT being increased to 48 teams…
The #WorldCup has well and truly kicked off 👍🏻
— Spencer FC (@SpencerOwen) June 14, 2018
Denis Cheryshev, the Villarreal winger, expected to start but was reduced to watching from the bench. He proved his point to his manager after replacing the hamstrung Alan Dzagoev.
Cheryshev profited from fantastic play from Zobnin and he did the rest.
A wonderful touch allowed his to dance around three Saudi defenders and he thrashed the ball beyond Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
SLIDESHOW: The 32 star players for every World Cup nation (Click image below)
The Al-Suqour simply had to improve after half-time and they made early in-roads into repairing the damage.
Mohammed Al-Sahlawi was a toe nail away from converting a teasing Salman Al Faraj cross. They begin the half well, but it prove to be a false dawn.
Another goal was always there for Russia if they wanted it, and another substitute with a point to prove took his chance.
Giant striker Artem Dzyuba used all of his 6ft 5in frame to escape his marker and plant a header into the bottom corner, far out of the reach of Saudi’s well-beaten goalkeeper.
Cheryshev iced the cake with a beauty in the final minute with the outside of his boot before the fantastic Alexsandr Golovin added a fine fifth, a goal he certainly deserved.
Crisis? What Crisis
Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia – match facts
Russia’s victory means that the host nation has never lost their opening match in any of the 21 editions of the FIFA World Cup (W16 D6 L0).
Russia (5-0) recorded the second biggest victory ever by a host nation in their opening match at a World Cup tournament, after Italy vs USA in 1934 (7-1).
Russia scored more than twice the amount of goals in this game (5) than they did in the entire 2014 World Cup finals over three games (2).
Saudi Arabia have not won any of their last 11 games at the World Cup (W0 D2 L9). Their last win in the competition dates back to the group stages of the 1994 edition (1-0 vs Belgium).
This is Saudi Arabia’s fifth World Cup finals tournament and the fifth in which they have failed to win their opening match (W0 D1 L4).
Saudi Arabia have conceded 14 headed goals at the World Cup since their debut in 1994, that’s five more than any other team over that period (USA – 9).
Yuri Gazinskiy’s goal for Russia came from the first shot on target at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Russia’s opening goal of the game from Yuri Gazinskiy came from a header; the first time that the opening goal of a World Cup tournament has been a header since 1990 (Francois Omam-Biyik for Cameroon vs Argentina).
Russia’s Denis Cheryshev became the first-ever substitute to score a goal in the opening match of a World Cup tournament.
Both Yuri Gazinskiy (7th appearance) and Denis Cheryshev (12th appearance) scored their first-ever goals for Russia in this match.
Artem Dzyuba scored for Russia just 89 seconds after coming off the bench; the quickest goal by a substitute at a World Cup since Marcin Zewlakow for Poland vs USA in 2002.
In this game, Sergei Ignashevich became the oldest player to ever appear in a World Cup match for Russia/USSR (38 years & 335 days old).