Russia's rout of Saudi Arabia doesn't mean they're any good

Brunilde Fioravanti
Giugno 15, 2018

After Russia scored the first goal of the tournament, president Vladimir Putin gave Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman a shrug and a handshake that was captured by cameras.

Yet given Saudi Arabia's high turnover of coaches, including a previous mid-World Cup sacking, the Argentine-born Pizzi could well be on his way before he gets a chance to try and rectify the situation.

Yuri Gazinsky initially put Russian Federation ahead with a header from Alexander Golovin's cross when the Saudis failed to clear a corner in the 12th minute.

Two-time winners Argentina and one-time winners France and Spain are also among those fancied to lift the World Cup this summer.

During the game, Russian substitute player Denis Cheryshev scored two goals to lead his team-who is hosting the tournament-to victory.

Putin, grappling with Western sanctions since seizing Crimea from Ukraine four years ago, will attend an opening ceremony at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium ahead of the first match of the month-long festival, pitting the hosts against Saudi Arabia.

Luzhniki exploded into raptures after only 12 minutes when Yury Gazinsky headed home for the opener.

Russian Federation then almost grabbed a third when Abdullah Al-Muaiouf spilled a low drive from Roman Zobnin, the Saudi goalkeeper recovering just time in time to nudge the ball away from Smolov.

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

"We saw that we are on the right track but we should forget this game and concentrate on the next one", Cherchesov said after ending a seven-game winless run in emphatic style.

The president, newly re-elected after 18 years in power, will listen to British singer Robbie Williams with what the Kremlin listed as an array of 15 foreign leaders - though that included eight from ex-Soviet neighbours as well as two from Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia.

A lack of an attacking threat in recent outings was a primary concern for Russian Federation going into a group campaign in which they will also face Egypt and Uruguay. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq all voted against the Moroccan bid.

Egypt and Uruguay are due to play the second Group A match in Yekaterinburg on Friday.

Saudi Arabia sent some players to the Spanish league for experience this season but they didn't get much playing time while there.

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