Russia Hammers Saudi Arabia 5–0 in World Cup 2018 Opener
While not exactly a scintillating matchup to kick off the 2018 World Cup, host Russia and Saudi Arabia sought to end a string of poor performances and take a major step toward reaching the knock-out stages.
Mission accomplished for Russia, which faced enormous pressure as no host team has ever lost an opening World Cup match. Substitute Denis Cheryshev, who came on in the 24th minute after Alan Dzagoev left with a leg injury scored two goals, including the game’s best—an outside-of-the-boot strike to give his team a four-goal lead.
Some very interesting stats from #RUSKSA.
For @TeamRussia, there’s only one that matters.
— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 14, 2018
Russia was also powered by Aleksandr Golovin who added a free-kick goal and set up two others with crosses. With a +5 goal differential, another win would all but ensure Russia progresses to the knockout stages, something only perhaps the most ambitious Russian supporters would have predicted.
Saudi Arabia was very much outclassed and did not manage a shot on target. Russia was hardly threatened in a match that will give them greater confidence to take on stronger opposition in Egypt and Uruguay.
Russia had not won a World Cup match since 2002, but this result will take some pressure off the team, which has been criticized for its poor performances. And for the Saudis, their World Cup goal-scoring drought, which has lasted since 1994 goes on.
Group A continues on Friday, June 15 with Egypt taking on Uruguay. Russia faces Egypt next on June 19, while Saudi Arabia hopes to get on track against Uruguay on June 20.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports