Russian Federation defies critics to throw World Cup party

Jose Verdugo
Junio 15, 2018

The opening goal came soon after, as Saudi Arabia failed to clear a corner and a curling cross in from the left by Golovin picked out an unmarked Gazinsky to head low into the far corner.

After Cheryshev's first goal, Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header from Golovin's cross.

This was not enough for the hosting team and less than a minute later Russia's Alexander Golovin scored another goal with a free kick sealing the final score at impressive 5-0.

Today marks the opening of Russia's first ever World Cup, against a team who have not competed at the tournament since 2006.

Minutes before the opening match Putin said: "I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world".

Russian Federation made it 3-0 in the 71st minute when Golovin chipped in a cross for giant striker Dzyuba to rise unchallenged to head in from close range.

The FIFA World Cup will continue through July 15, with the matches set to take place at 12 stadiums across 11 cities.

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Russian Federation had a penalty appeal turned down in the 35th minute, but Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi got enough on the ball when he challenged Golovin to avoid censure from VAR.

Creative fulcrum Alan Dzagoev, who has often suffered misfortune around big tournaments, had to go off after just 20 minutes with a suspected hamstring injury, to be replaced by Villareal's Denis Cheryshev. Aware that Saudi Arabia's defenders were unlikely to challenge him, the attacker curled in a attractive shot from the edge of the box with the outside of his left foot to put his team up four.

On the day of the curtainraiser, Russian Federation freed the main opposition figure to Putin, Alexei Navalny, from jail after he served a 30-day sentence for organising an illegal protest.

Tune in to Jason Pine weekday mornings from 9 on Radio Sport, for all the latest from the FIFA World Cup.

The other two teams in Group A, Egypt and Uruguay, will play on Friday, along with the four teams in Group B - Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran.

Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi had earlier said that Saudi Arabia would play without fear on Thursday. "We've done everything to ensure that fans, sportsmen and professionals soak up the atmosphere of this great football holiday and, of course, enjoy their stay in an open, hospitable and welcoming Russian Federation".

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