The World Cup is upon us and the opening day of the competition has come to it’s conclusion with just the one game. Hosts Russia took on a Saudi Arabian side that hasn’t been seen at a World Cup for 12 years.
The day started with the opening ceremony. Robbie Williams and R9 featuring in prominent positions before the proceedings were blessed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and FIFA president Gianno Infantino.
Russia, despite being the lowest ranked side in the competition, looked much more competent than their Arabian counterparts from the outset.
It wasn’t plain sailing for the hosts, just 10 minutes after midfielder, Yuri Gazinsky put them ahead, they had to say farewell to their star midfielder, Alan Dzagoev. He pulled up with a hamstring injury and had no option but to be substituted from the game. Heartbreaking for his World Cup campaign to seemingly end after just 23 minutes.
His replacement didn’t do too badly for himself, however. Denis Cheryshev, formally of Real Madrid, currently of Villerreal came on, and he sort of became a World Cup first.
Cheryshev became the first ever substitute to score in the opening game of a World Cup. The second? Artem Dzyuba, who came on to score later on in the game.
Cheryshev, along with Gazinsky are the first two players to score their first national goals in the first game of a World Cup, too. A record setting day for the Villerreal winger.
For Gazinsky’s initial strike, there was definitely hints of a push on the Saudi defender marking him. The referee on the pitch and the VAR team stationed away from the stadium both agreed that no foul should be given.
As mentioned, Artem Dzyuba came on to score, and he did so with his first touch. A leap over a Saudi defender. A downwards header away from the keeper and Russia’s lead was brought to three. The Saudi goalkeeper, Abdullah Al Muaiouf left lots to be desired throughout the game, leading to comparisons with Loris Karius after his capitulation in the Champions League final.
Karius esque from Saudi’s keeper…
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) June 14, 2018
The fourth and fifth goals both came as the game moved into injury time. The first of the two was Cheryshev’s second of the game and what a strike it was. A soft touch on the ball, turning one of the Saudi defenders before smashing the ball just inside the near post with the outside of his boot. Lovely.
Russia’s fifth came just minutes later as Aleksandr Golovkin blasted in a free-kick from just outside of the are with pretty much the last kick of the game.
Russia keep up the run of a host nation never losing the opening game of a World Cup and the winless run of ACF representatives continues, it’s now 16 games. 12 losses and four draws.
Tomorrow’s games are:
Egypt vs Uruguay
Morocco vs Iran
Spain vs Portugal
Stay tuned to The Anfield Talk for everything you need to know about the 2018 World Cup.