By James Agberebi:
Hosts Russia got off to a perfect start as they trounced Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.
Prior to the impressive win against Saudi Arabia, Russia had failed to win any of their last seven games (all friendlies).
The last time Russia won a match at the FIFA World Cup was at the 2002 edition in Korea/Japan when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in their first group game.
Yuri Gazinskiy broke the deadlock on Thursday in the 12th minute as he headed past Saudi Arabia keeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf off a brilliant cross from Aleksandr Golovin.
In the 43rd minute, Russia went 2-0 up thanks to Denis Cheryshev who neatly beat two markers inside the box before rifling a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
Russia went 3-0 up on 71 minutes thanks to substitute Artem Dzyuba who climbed highest to head in a cross from the right.
In the 90th minute, Cheryshev grabbed his second goal with a brilliant left-foot curler into the top corner.
And in the 94th minute, Aleksandr Golovin completed the rout with a brilliant free-kick over the Saudi wall which sailed into the back of the net.
In between Gazinskiy and Cheryshev’s goals, Russia were dealt a massive injury blow as star forward Alan Dzagoev went off with a hamstring injury on 24 minutes and was replaced by Cheryshev.
Russia’s win means no host nation has ever lost in their opening game of a World Cup tournament, stretching the wins by hosts nations to seven victories.
Saudi Arabia have now failed to win any of their last 11 World Cup games, with their last win coming in a 1-0 group stage win against Belgium at their debut in USA 1994.
Russia have now recorded the second biggest victory by a host nation in their opening match in World Cup history, after Italy beat USA 7-1 in 1934.
Russia’s next Group A game comes up against Egypt on Tuesday, June 19 while Saudi Arabia will take on Uruguay on Wednesday, June 20.
The second Group A game comes up on Friday, June 15 with Uruguay squaring off against Egypt.