Football can be such an unpredictable sport. Few, even the most optimistic Russian, would have predicted a 5-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia in their opening game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
But, thanks to an inspired performance by Stanislav Cherechesov’s men, the hosts claimed their biggest World Cup victory since defeating Hungary in 1986.
The Group A encounter was expected to be a dull affair, given that both teams are the weakest of the tournament’s 32 nations. However, the hosts got off to a quick start and were rewarded in the 12th minute when Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the 2018 World Cup.
Russia even overcame the setback of losing midfielder Alan Dzagoev in the 22nd-minute injury, by scoring again through substitute Dennis Cheryshev shortly before the interval.
The home side picked up where they left off in the second half, displaying competent defending against the Saudis. They widened the lead in the 71st minute when Artem Dzyuba’s fantastic header bulged the back of the Arabian net.
The Russians, who had 59 percent of possession, got their fourth when Cheryshev scored his second a minute into stoppage time before Aleksandr Golovin, incredible free kick sealed the rout in the 95th-minute.
Russia’s last win at the World Cup was back in 2002 when they defeated Tunisia 2-0. Their victory today is the biggest win in an opening match at the World Cup in over 60 years since Sweden’s 3-0 win against Mexico in 1958.
Russia will next play Egypt on Tuesday, June 19, while Saudi Arabia take on Uruguay on Wednesday, June 20.