Russia could not have asked for a better start to their own campaign and the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They faced Group A opponents Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the competition and came away as 5-0 winners.
Golovin puts in a man-of-the-match performance
Many had underestimated how good the Russians could be, even their own media, and the team set out to prove everyone wrong from the first whistle onward. Aleksandr Golovin, who some had picked out as the man to watch for Russia, put in a fantastic performance for his team. He was involved in almost every single goal that Russia scored and was always the creative force for the team, especially after Alan Dzagoev left them game early with a hamstring injury.
Golovin has been rumored to have attracted the attentions of English Premier League heavyweights Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC, and after this performance, their scouting has turned out to be right on the money.
Substitutes pay off for the hosts
With Dzagoev leaving the match early, head coach Cherchesov Stanislav was forced to make a change he may have not wanted to. Fortunately for him, Denis Cheryshev came on and put in a wonderful performance. The CF Villareal man scored two goals which could easily land themselves on the Goal of the Tournament list and provided an attacking threat for Russia down the left throughout the game.
The other pivotal substitute that Stanislav made was that of Artem Dzyuba. The big forward had been the most in-form striker for Russia over the last few months but was left out of the starting eleven as Stanislav went for a more mobile option. Dzyuba gave his head coach something to think about for the next game as he scored within minutes of entering the field.
Saudi Arabia offer no resistance to the Russians
This game had been billed to be a close one but it did not live up to that prediction at all. After some early touches in the Russian half, Saudi Arabia faded badly from the first goal they conceded. The second half saw them completely capitulate and even when they did send in anything dangerous for Russia to deal with, not enough of the Saudi players had made runs into the box.
With such a large deficit conceded in their first match, it's going to take a miracle for Saudi Arabia to qualify for the group. Head coach Pizzi Juan Antonio may have to exercise a case of limiting the amount of goals they concede in this tournament going forward if this is how his team will defend in the next two games.