Hosts Russia kick-started their World Cup campaign with an impressive 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Goals from Yury Gazinsky and substitute Denis Cheryshev set the tone for Stanislav Cherchesov's side in the first half before Artem Dzyuba headed in a third. The hosts showed their class right at the very end with Cheryshev grabbing a stunning second before Aleksandr Golovin curled in a free-kick to make it a day to remember for the Russian fans.
In truth, Russia dominated the early proceedings and pushed Saudi back from the very start. The hosts, however, were dealt an early blow when Alan Dzagoev limped off with a suspected hamstring injury. Russia began to press Saudi winning a succession of corners, and eventually with twelve minutes on the clock took the lead as Golovin curled in a perfect back-post cross which met the head of Yury Gazinsky who scored the first goal of the 2018 World Cup.
Saudi composed themselves and kept the ball well at times, however, failed to carve out any real chances of note in the content. The closest they came in the first half came as Mohammad Al-Sahlawi saw his header get pushed out for the corner.
On the cusp of half-time, Russia scored a second to put the contest beyond all doubt. A slick passing move eventually found sub-Denis Cheryshev, a quick shimmy from the Villarreal striker saw him beat two Saudi defenders before smashing the ball past the keeper at the near post.
Juan Antonio Pizzi failed to raise his side during the break as the Russians streamed forward in the second half. With 30 minutes to play, the hosts found a third Golovin again with a perfect cross for Artem Dzyuba to head in a third.
Russia did not stop there and Cheryshev saw his spectacular outside of the foot shot sail into the back of the net for a fourth. Moments later Aleksandr Golovin scored a peach of a free-kick to make it 5-0 for the Russians and to kick-start their World Cup campaign with a perfect result.
Peep! All over here! A comprehensive 5-0 win for Russia! Saudi looked clueless at times in defence, and Russia duly punished them. Match report to follow!
90+3-GOAL! 5-0 It's a rout! My pick for man of the match Aleksandr Golovin curls in a peach of a free-kick! 5-0!
90+1 Goal! 4-0 and a early contender for goal of the tournament!? Denis Cheryshev latches onto a long ball controls it and unleashes a magical outside of the foot shot which sails into the top corner. Magnificant! 4-0!
90- Three minutes of extra time to be played!
86- Final Saudi sub- Muhammad Al-Sahlawi off, Muhammad Asiri on.
85-Yuri Zhirkov curls in a free-kick to the back post. Saudi scramble it away. They have been awful defending set pieces today.
83- Substitute Daler Kuzyayev smacks a shot high over the bar. This is very comfortable for the Russians.
81- You have to feel for the Saudi's here, they seem completely overwhelmed on the big stage. Hardly any shots on target.
79- A Saudi sub I missed from earlier on Yahya Al-Shehri off, Hatan Bahbri on. My deepest apologies to avid fans of the Live Updates!
75- The Russian fans are in dreamland! An impromptu Mexican wave breaks out. Lovely stuff!
72- Salem Al-Dawsari lets rip from distance for Saudi, his shot skims wide.
71- Goal! 3-0! What an impact! Sub Artem Dzyuba heads in the third, after a quite delicious ball from Aleksandr Golovin, he's been the man of the match in my book. The Saudi defending has been shocking! A dream start for the hosts!
69- Final sub for Russia- Artem Dzyuba comes on to loud cheers from the Russian fans. He replaces Fyodor Smolov who has done well leading the line today.
66- Roman Zobnin digs out a shot from outside the box. Abdullah Al-Mayouf spills the shot but quickly recovers to gather the ball.
61- Russia happy to play keep ball, They know it's over. Meanwhile, sub for Saudi Otayf is off and replaced by Al Muwallad Al-Harbi, a speedy winger. As for Russia Samedov comes off and Kuzyaev is on in his place.
56- Taisar Al-Jassim curls in a free-kick Salman Al-Faraj directs his header over the bar! Much better from Saudi Arabia!
55- Just like that a chance for the Green Falcons! A perfect cross which skips in from the right-hand side, both Al Sahlawi and Taisar Al-Jassim fail to poke the ball into the net! So close!
53- This is not looking good for Saudi Arabia, content to keep possession but can't actually keep the ball. They have only had one chance of note for the whole game...
51- First chance of note to Russia as Samedov shoots from just outside the box. His shot flies well over.
48- So far nothing really to report as the second half gets underway. As the ball bobbles around midfield.
Peep! We are back underway in Moscow, Russia with the kick-off!
45- Peep! Half-time! Russia is 2-0 up against Saudi and look comfortable for it! Join me in 15 minutes for World Cup fun!
44- Goal! Russia doubles their lead with a brilliant team goal, playing the ball across the box to Cheryshev a quick change of direction puts two Saudi defenders on the floor and the winger smashes the ball into the near corner. It was a lovely goal, which gives Russia the advantage heading into the break! 2-0!
41- Sub Cheryshev scampers to the byline and gets the better of Hawsawi, however, the winger runs out of place and the ball is out for a goal kick!
39- Saudi has had plenty of possession, but haven't really done much with it. Worrying stuff for Juan Antonio Pizzi heading into the half-time team talk.
35-Osama Hawsawi in the thick of it again with a potential penalty shout as Golovin is bundled down in the box. The referee waves away the Russian penalty pleas!
33- Osama Hawsawi misplaces a pass out of play. Sums up the Saudi captains day so far.
28- Saudi has a dangerous looking set-piece on the right-hand side. Salman Al-Faraj bends it in, but the Saudi header balloons well over!
26- Half chance! Salem Al Dawsari who was loaned out to Villarreal in January swipes at the ball. His effort flies well over.
23- That is a shame. Alan Dzagoev who has looked so dangerous for the Russians is subbed with a pulled hamstring. That could be his World Cup over, Denis Cheryshev of Villarreal is on in his stead.
20- Chance for Saudi! A quick breakaway and a cross comes in for Al Sahlawi his header is scrambled away for a corner, which is wasted. Signs of life from Saudi on the break!
18- Omar Hawsawi got himself in trouble there with a misplaced pass from the centre back. No bother, Saudi regain possession.
14- Saudi keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf pulls off a good save to deny a deflected shot from Alan Dzagoev. It could have been 2-0 there.
12- Goal! Russia take the lead! That was pretty simple! Golovin with a curling cross and Gazinskiy was on hand to nod into the ball into the back of the net. Shocking defending from Saudi Arabia. Russia make the breakthrough! 1-0!
11- Half chance for Russia Dzagoev receives the ball, but Saudi block the ball. It's another corner for Russia.
8- Saudi seems to be holding on here, Zhirkov's second corner of the day is very deep. Saudi get rid again.
5- Russia spring away on the counter-attack, the ball is cut back in the box but Saudi skipper Os Hawsawi puts in a well-timed challenge to get the ball out of trouble.
3- Russia picks up the first corner of the World Cup, which is knocked to the near post. Saudi again get it clear, this time cleared by Granat
1- Dzagoev breaks into the box for the Russians and is greeted with a loud cheer from the home fans. Saudi clear their lines.
Right! Away we go! Game 1! Saudi get us underway!
Well, that was a bit erm eye-opening... Robbie Williams still has it... It would seem! Full highlights to follow! Just under 15 minutes to kick-off! Can you feel it? I can! As ever you can watch all the action Live & Exclusive via beIN SPORTS CONNECT!
Well, that looks foolish from me... seems like the former Take That star is starting now! He's wearing an outrageous red suit! More video updates when I get them...
Always good to have some news! Plenty of updates from around the World Cup, along with the Premier League fixtures! In the more pressing news, its just under 30 minutes till Robbie Williams struts around the Luzhniki Stadium heaven!
Both sets of teams are out preparing! We are just over 40 minutes before the opening ceromany!
TEAM NEWS! We have team news! For Russia, keeper Igor Akinfeev captains the side, Yuri Zhirkov now 34 gets a role as wingback. Krasnodar striker Fyodor Smolov leads the line.
As for Saudi, Al Hilal defender Osama Hawsawi captains the side, fresh from his experience in La Liga with Levante Yahya Al-Shehri starts on the wing, and one of the most feared strikers in Asian qualifying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi starts up top.
Good news! The players are taking a little look around the stadium, and look pretty relaxed based on those pictures!
Perhaps it's not the most exciting World Cup opener in living memory, but both sides will have plenty to prove when we get underway at the Luzhniki Stadium at 6 pm. Indeed Saui coach Juan Antonio Pizzi was quick to dismiss the pressure on his Russian opponents insisting that all teams head into the World Cup with "Pressure". Both sides are the two lowest ranked teams in the World Cup so it'll be interesting what they can offer in the first game of the tournament.
Just over an hour to go before the big Kick-off! How about a nice little World Cup video to get you in the mood! We should have the team sheets through soon!
Right! So World Cup time! Let's get you started off with a snack-sized World Cup preview with the Express team!
Join @MCATEER4, @CrosbyNicky & @aleduc LIVE on Twitter!— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) June 14, 2018
We want to hear what YOU think about these topics...
⚽️ Top scorer
🏅 Best player
🎉 Biggest surprise
🏆 World Cup winners
Tweet using #beINExpress https://t.co/THBzVNUahq
Hello! Welcome to the Live Updates for the opening game of the 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP! Hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the group A opener which has been gleefully dubbed "El Gasico" because both countries produce gas! Ha! Amazing! Anyway... Join me for all the Live Updates, including that critical review of Robbie Williams at the opening ceromany. As ever, you can keep up to date with all the action from Moscow by watching everything via beIN SPORTS CONNECT.
The wait is finally over, hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The game will take place in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday the 14th of June, KO 18:00. As ever you can watch the live stream of the match Live & Exclusive on beIN SPORTS CONNECT.
As tradition before the big kick-off, an elaborate opening ceremony is set to take place 30 minutes before the first game. Which will see British musician Robbie Williams headline, and will see the ceremony ended with a spectacular fireworks display.
Russia is coming into the tie after a relatively poor run of friendly games, including defeats to the likes of Austria, France & Brazil prior to the tournament. Russian boss Stanislav Cherchesov will be hoping that his players can rise to the occasion of playing a first ever World Cup on home soil, and should be able to count on a rowdy home support.
The Russians will be looking to make a strong start to group A, and a clean sheet will be a must against Saudi Arabia. Experienced keeper Igor Akinfeev has over 100 caps for Russia and is likely to captain his side on this historic day. The 32-year old will have to be at his best if the Russians are to start the World Cup on the front foot.
Russia Predicted Team
Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Kutepov, Ignashevich; Samedov, Zobrin, Gazinskiy, Zhirkov; Dzagoev, Smolov, Golovin
Online Stream- beIN SPORTS CONNECT
TV Channel- beIN MAX HD3
Stadium- Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
As for Saudi Arabia, they head into their first World Cup in twelve years and will be looking to progress to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994.
The Green Falcons have had some managerial upheaval since qualifying for the tournament, with former Spanish international Juan Antonio Pizzi now in charge of the side. Pizzi guided Chile to the Copa America in 2016, and will be hoping he can work his magic on a homegrown side.
Saudi Arabia Predicted Team
Al Maiouf; Al Shahrani, Os Hawsawi, Om Hawsawi, Al Hardi; Otayf; Al Shehri, Al Jassim, Al Faraj, Al Dawsari; Al Muwallad Al Harbi
A host of Saudi players were sent on loan to Spain in January to prepare the side for the World Cup. Winger Yahya Al-Shehri made the move to Leganes and La Liga, and despite not playing a competitive game for the side, the 27-year old would have gained plenty of experience working with the squad. Al Shehri is likely to start against Russia, and his pace will be a vital asset if Saudi is to play Russia on the counter-attack.
It promises to be an interesting match as the 2018 World Cup officially kicks off when Russia take on Saudi Arabia. You can watch all the action Live & Exclusive on HD11 & beIN SPORTS CONNECT.