World Cup unfolds in Russia, hosts trounce Saudis!

World Cup unfolds in Russia, hosts trounce Saudis!

The Beautiful Game is in focus as the world eyeballs the FIFA World Cup, this time in Russia. The opening ceremony was brief, and surprising in more ways than one.

The FIFA World Cup 2018 was kicked off in Moscow with a dazzling opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium, before the first match between host Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The 15-minute show, Reuters reported, was produced by Russia’s state Channel One. The ceremony reportedly broke from tradition, focusing on musical acts including a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky in front of full stands.

Casillas with trophy

The report said that Iker Casillas and Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova brought the World Cup trophy onto the pitch in a Louis Vuitton travel case.

Ronaldo, Aida Garifullina, “kid,” Zabivaka (Russia 2018 mascot, for the uninitiated), Telstar 18, lots of background dancers and colours and finally, Robbie Williams. ( By now most of you must have heard that he showed his middle finger towards the end of his performance… why? .. go figure!) Thus stood the star cast of a rather hasty opening ceremony for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The supporting cast included pianist Daniil Trifonov and violinist Yuri Bashmet, who were both floating over Moscow river while performing a Tchaikovsky composition in a rather bizarre pre-recorded opening video.

[By the way, anyone know when the FIFA Women’s World Cup is on? anyone?]

The Opening Match

Denis Cheryshev struck twice for Russia as the World Cup host thumped Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the tournament in Moscow on Thursday.

Iury Gazinsky scored after 12 minutes and Cheryshev added a second before the break after coming on as an injury replacement for Alan Dzagoev.

Artem Dzuyba netted a third before terrific late efforts from Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin wrapped up Russia’s first win since October to launch its Group A campaign in style.

Russia headed into the curtain-raiser at the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki, the crucible of Russian and Soviet sport, without a victory in over eight months and ranked a lowly 70th in the world.

A lack of an attacking threat in recent outings was a primary concern for Russia going into a group campaign in which it will also face Egypt and Uruguay.

Those fears were soon washed away, at least for the time being, as Alexander Samedov and Fedor Smolov carved out early chances only to be denied by desperate sliding blocks.

Early strike
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.

Russia lost Dzagoev to a hamstring injury midway through the first half and his replacement, former Real Madrid winger Cheryshev, celebrated his recent recall to the national side with Russia’s second goal two minutes before half-time.

Cheryshev was still left with plenty of work to do inside the area after a pass from Roman Zobnin, brilliantly flicking the ball past two closing defenders before rifling into the roof of the net.

Substitute Dzyuba struck by heading another Golovin cross beyond a helpless Muaiouf in the 71st minute.

Cheryshev hammered in a fourth with the outside of his left in stoppage time and Golovin capped a magnificent performance by bending in a last-gasp free-kick.

The result:

Russia 5 (Yuri Gazinskiy 12, Denis Cheryshev 43 & 90+1, Artem Dzyuba 71, Aleksandr Golovin 90+4) bt Saudi Arabia 0.

 

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