Saudi Arabia loses to Russian Federation 5-0 at World Cup opening game

Saudi Arabia loses to Russian Federation 5-0 at World Cup opening game

The home team will likely need to win to have a realistic hope of advancing from Group A, and is expected to have Russian President Vladimir Putin in the crowd for support as it bids to end a winless streak of seven games.

It's always good to open your tournament with a win, especially when you're the host nation and there are serious questions about your ability to make it out of the group.

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.

In a World Cup first, the video assistant referee system was available for the match between the tournament's lowest-ranked teams, though it wasn't used for an official review.

Russia's Denis Cheryshev, who scored twice, said: "There are no words to express what I'm feeling right now".

"We have to take all the criticisms and turn it into something positive", Cherchesov told reporters. Since their World Cup debut in 1994 they have conceded more headers (14) than any other side in that time.

The 27-year-old's career has been blighted by a succession of injuries, resulting in Fabio Capello overlooking him for the 2014 World Cup. It scored early, and then in the second half it scored often, grabbing two goals in the final minutes.

Two goals in added time and a grinning Putin shrugged.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Live, Russia vs Saudi Arabia Live Score: Russia under pressure in opener against Saudi Arabia
Russia crush sorry Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener

"I'm happy we've won but we shouldn't stop there", he added.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi faces a selection dilemma with his strikers as he is set to decide between Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and Muhannad Assiri. Cherchesov abandoned his usual three-man backline with wing-backs in favor of a four-man defense against Austria last month, but Russian Federation lost 1-0 and failed to register a shot on target.

The Green Falcons don't have any World Cup experience, but does boast some veterans including 34-year-old defender Osama Hawsawi, who has registered 135 caps and will be a key figure in slowing down Smolov. Denis Cheryshev stepped off the bench with a superb brace, having replaced the injured Alan Dzagoev on 24 minutes.

"I could never have dreamed of anything like this".

Russia's fans, forced to suffer years of poor performances in friendlies that left their team an embarrassing 70th in the world rankings will not care about the quality of the opponents.

Soon afterwards, Russian Federation were forced into a change when midfielder Alan Dzagoev pulled up with what seemed to be a hamstring injury and was replaced by Cheryshev.

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia) Though it feels harsh not to reward Cheryshev for two lovely finishes, it was Golovin who ran the game.

Saudi Arabia still have to play the two most hard teams in their group. Russian Federation are a good team with great players. I think the game against Russian Federation will be very hard... Stanislav Cherchesov abandoned his three-man defence and opted for a traditional 4-2-3-1 while Saudi Arabia lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. "As for our strategy, we must change", Pizzi closed.

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