- Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0
- Goals from Gazinsky, Cherushev (2), Dzyuba & Golovin
- Match is the first to be played at Russia 2018
Featuring the lowest ranked teams in the tournament, not much entertainment was expected in this opening World Cup match but two goals from Denis Cherushev and Iury Gazinsky, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin strikes gave the partisan supporters inside the 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium plenty to cheer.
The win, Russia’s first in 2018, gives the host nation a precious three points to temporarily top a group which is only going to get harder for Stanislav Cherchesov’s men with fixtures against Egypt and Uruguay still to come.
This week Putin had said Russia — going into the tournament ranked 70th in the world, three places below Saudi Arabia — would “fight until the end,” but, in this match at least, a poor Saudi Arabia proved to be obliging opponents as they gave the hosts freedom in possession and, crucially, the opposition box.