Hosts Russia Defeat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in World Cup Opener

Hosts Russia Defeat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in World Cup Opener

Thursday, 14 June, 2018 - 17:45
Russia’s players celebrate after beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Hosts Russia defeated on Thursday Saudi Arabia during the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The opening ceremony was attended by President Vladimir Putin and several world leaders, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

Putin told the 80,000-strong crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium before the match kicked off: "I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world."

"Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people's language or ideology," Putin said to thunderous cheers.

Then, to the delight of the home fans, Iury Gazinsky headed Russia in front in the 12th minute after a cross from Aleksandr Golovin. Substitute Denis Cheryshev rifled home a second shortly before half-time.

Saudi briefly threatened early in the second half when an inviting cross in from the right skipped just beyond the reach of Taiseer Al-Jassam.

Another substitute, Artem Dzyuba, made it 3-0 with about 20 minutes remaining, putting the game out of Saudi Arabia's reach.

Cheryshev scored a stunning goal with the outside of his left foot in time added on and Golovin sealed the rout with a goal direct from a free-kick.

Victory for Russia, ranked a lowly 70th in the world -- three places below Saudi Arabia -- was vital for the home nation's hopes of progressing, with tougher games against Egypt and Uruguay to come.

For Saudi Arabia it was a return to the global showpiece for the first time in 12 years, with their only previous finals wins at the 1994 World Cup.

Only South Africa, in 2010, have failed to advance from the group stage as the host nation and a seven-match winless run had ramped up the pressure on Stanislav Cherchesov's side.

Russia meet Egypt in their next match on June 19 in Saint Petersburg, while Saudi Arabia will look to rebound against group favorites Uruguay in Rostov-on-Don a day later.

The World Cup favorites -- Germany, Spain, France, Brazil -- enter the fray from Friday onwards.

Brazil and their superstar Neymar are seeking a sixth global crown while Germany, who won their fourth World Cup in Brazil four years ago, will be determined to draw level with the Brazilians.

France boast possibly the most talented squad while Lionel Messi is desperate to make amends for Argentina's defeat in the 2014 final.

The preparations of 2010 winners Spain are in tatters after coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked just two days before their opening game on Friday against Portugal. He had angered his federation by taking the job of Real Madrid manager.

Neymar, the world's most expensive player, has recovered from a broken bone in his foot in time.

Egypt's coach said prolific striker Mohamed Salah is "almost 100 percent" to play in their opening match against Uruguay on Friday after he had intensive treatment on the shoulder injury he suffered playing for Liverpool against Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

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