Feature Photo: Twitter @CBSSportsSoccer
As World Cup 2018 officially kicked off today, it was imperative for host country Russia to be off to a good start at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Mission was fully accomplished for the Russian squad, with their jewel Aleksander Golovin serving two assists and scoring from a free-kick in a convincing 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.
Two goals came from substitute Denis Cheryshev, another player to watch for, who replaced injured Alan Dzagoev after just 20 minutes – his injury being the only bad piece of news in a triumphal day for the host Country. But Coach Stanislav Cherchesov, a former goalkeeper with a few World Cup caps himself, surely showed that he can make some changes – whether forced or not – as Russia’s third goal today also came from substitute Artem Dzyuma, who scored one minute after setting foot on the pitch.
The battle between non-renewable energy powerhouses between gas provider Russia and oil king Saudi Arabia thus ended in a crushing defeat for the latter, whose timid tiki taka in Arabic sauce attempts miserably failed due to clear technical and organizational limits. For their Argentinian trainer Juan Antonio Pizzi there is much work to do, if he wants the Saudi to avoid repeating the poor figure they collected in World Cup 2002.
Back in the days of the Nippo-Korean tournament, Saudi Arabia had debuted with a humiliating 0-8 collapse at the hand of Germany. On that perspective, losing by five goals is surely an improvement. Still, Saudi fans would probably like to see a little faster progress: Russian goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev, another one who knows a thing or two about World Cup nightmares (…remember his multiple blunders four years ago?) could enjoy an afternoon of relax today, as basically no threat was posed to his goal.
Aleksandr Golovin, Russia’s young Tsar set the match on fire after 12 minutes, crossing from the left side to serve a perfect assist for Iury Gazinsky’s head: FC Krasnodar’s midfielder drew first blood, scoring the opening goal of this XXI edition of the World Cup.
From then on, it was all easy for the Sbornaya, despite a first half played at an all but whirling pace. Substitute Cherysev made it two for Russia at the end of it, unloading a close-range shot after a beautiful (lucky?) trick had allowed him to dribble two Saudi defenders together. Even better was his second goal of the day – Russia’s fourth – which originated from a sublime left foot chip that put the ball over the opponent keeper’s head.
Before that, another header, this one by Artem Dzyuma, had made supporters at the Luzhinki Stadium cry for the third time. But the Russian party continued until the very end, much beyond extra time, when Golovin put an exclamation mark on his already outstanding performance scoring directly from a free kick.
We told you to keep your eyes open for him. But obviously we were not the only ones to notice him, as transfer market rumors have it that Juventus has been closely monitoring the young Russian talent. Too bad for the Bianconeri that, after today’s exploit, his price will have likely raised by a few millions already…
So the World-Cup-Without-Italy officially started, and it started with no surprises, as everyone was expecting. We wonder how Italian fans must have felt today, and how must have they sighed every time Saudi number 10 Mohammed Al Sahlawi touched the ball, and TV commentators called his name – which sounded so desperately similar to the Azzurri’s Stephan El Shaarawy…
June 14, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool A
RUSSIA-SAUDI ARABIA 5-0
SCORERS: 2′ Gazinsky, 43′ Cheryshev, 71′ Dzyuba, 91′ Cheryshev, 94′ Golovin
|RUSSIA (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zirkov; Gazinsky, Zobnin; Samedov (63’ Kuzyaev), Dzagoev (24′ Cheryshev), Golovin; Smolov (70’ Dzyuba) (Gabulov, Lunev, Smolnikov, Semenov, Kuziaev, Kudriashov, Granat, Al. Miranchuk, An, Miranchuk, Erokhin) Coach: Cherchesov|
|SAUDI ARABIA (4-2-3-1): Al Muayouf; Al Shahrani, Os. Hawsawi, Om. Hawsawi, Al Burayk; Otayf (63’ Al Mowallad), Al Faraj; Al Shehri (74’ Bahbir), Al Jassam, Al Dosari; Al Sahlawi (Al Mosailem, Al Owais, Al Bulayhi, Al Harbi, Al Khaibri, Kanno, Al Khaibari, Al Moqahwi, Asiri, Mo. Hawsawi) Coach: Pizzi|
REFEREE: Pitana (Argentina)
NOTES: Attendance: 8000; Yellow Cards: Golovin (R), Al Jassam (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 3′