The Russians opened up the 2018 World Cup in dominant fashion by trouncing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their first World Cup victory since 2002. It marked their first victory since defeating Tunisia 2-0 in Japan/South Korea.

Aleksandr Golovin opened up the game – and tournament’s – scoring after a guided home a cross from Yuri Gazinsky with his head to give Russia a 1-0 lead. The 22-year old’s goal – who’s been linked with a move to Arsenal – was his third for his national team.

The host nation continued to pile on the pressure as they looked to build off their hot start. However, disaster struck in the 22nd minute when Alan Dzagoev – one of the most experienced and key players in the lineup – went down with what looked to be a hamstring injury. He was replaced by former Real Madrid and current Villarreal man Denis Cheryshev, who would end up having a fantastic World Cup debut.

Not long after coming on, the Russian substitute – Cheryshev – put his name in the history books with one of the coolest finishes you’ll see this World Cup. A little chip over a couple of sliding defenders and a big swing of the left boot gave the Villarreal man his first goal in a Russian uniform and doubled the host nations lead.

Following the half-time break, the host continued to dominate the play. However, it took a while for them to get back on the board again.

In the 70th minute, star striker Artem Dzyuba entered the game. Dzyuba has been a dominant scorer during his international career, having scored 11 goals in 23 appearances. Then less than a minute into coming on, the Russian striker provided how deadly he can be when he headed the third past Abdullah Al-Mayouf with his first touch of the match.

The game was all but done at this point, yet the Russians continued to pile on the goals. Two more came in added time: one from Cheryshev for his second of the game – which was, again, an unbelievable finish – and a final marker from Aleksandr Golovin.

Final score from the Luzhniki Stadium: Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0

Overall, this was the perfect way for Russia to start the tournament. They took advantage of a weaker nation and by doing that got their fans right behind them. The games will only get tougher from here on out though, with Egypt and Uruguay still to come.

As for Saudi Arabia, they simply didn’t look good. They need to turn things around immediately if they want to have a chance of making it out of the group, or even just not wanting to embarrass themselves again. If they perform like this against a “weaker” opponent with honestly not that much offensive talent, they’re going to struggle against their next two opponents.

2018 World Cup: Day One

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