As it happened: Russia thump Saudi Arabia in five-goal romp
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That's all we have time for unfortunately. What a start to the tournament, though. We'll be back with full coverage of every single World Cup fixture. 

And that's it! The hosts get off to the best possible start with a thumping over an admittedly incredibly poor side. All five goals very good in their own right but you'll be certain to see Cheryshev's second on replay for the next month or so. 


90+4: The CSKA Moscow man bends in from 25 yards with the final kick of the game. 

IT'S FIVE! Golovin with a stunning free-kick.

90+1: The Villareal man brings down the ball in the left channel and bends it majestically with the outside of his left foot into the top corner. Absolutely wonderful. 


90: Three added minutes. The same number Russia still lead by. 

87: Golovin earns the first yellow card of the tournament. Remember, it's two bookings for a suspension and all yellow cards are wiped after the quarter-final. 

84: Game has continued at the same slow tempo as prior to Dyzuba's goal. Saudi definitely a contender for worst team at the tournament - been awfully sloppy in possession and created scarcely any chances. 

71: A fantastic, guided header from the big striker as he rises highest to meet Golovin's cross. 


70: Artem Dzyuba has come on for Smolov for the final 20 minutes. Russia very comfortable. 

68: Almost a third for Russia as Al-Mayoof spills but manages to grab the ball at the second attempt. Game has otherwise gone a bit flat. 

64: Substitution for Saudi Arabia. Fahad Al Muwallad replaces Abdullah Otayf. And one for Russia: Daler Kuzyaev replaces Aleksandr Samedov.

59: Al Faraj, no - not Nigel, heads wide from a free-kick.

56: Curse of the commentator? A whipped ball in from the right has Russia scrambling, Alsharani inches away from getting on the end of it with his out-stretched foot.

55: Little doing, here. Saudi Arabia don't look like hurting Russia's five man defence, especially given they're sitting back protecting a lead. 

45: Second-half kicks off.

Don't think I've given that Cheryshev goal enough credit. The pass to him is a little square and he creates room with a lovely dink over two sliding defenders, before executing the finish. A real moment of quality. 

That's it for the first half and it's been a pretty dream one for Russia, bar the Dzagoev injury. An early goal from Gazinsky supplemented by Cheryshev's strike and they're breezing towards three points.

Half-time: Russia 2-0 Saudi Arabia

45: Two minutes added on.

43: The home crowd go wild as Saudi Arabia's defence is left all at sea again. Russia completely out-number them in sweeping forward, Golovin to Smolov who tee's up Cheryshev to smash it into the top corner. 

GOAL RUSSIA! Cheryshev makes it two!

40: Not long to go now in this first half, which Russia will be quietly pleased with. Saudi Arabia have looked good on the ball but haven't fashioned much, the hosts carrying out a competent game plan to have the lead currently.

35: VAR, anyone? Golovin with a couple of step-overs in the penalty area before being challenged by Osama Hawsawi, referee waves play-on and nothing comes so it looks like he's got the decision right.

31: Saudi Arabia looking to fashion something from a looped free-kick, headed over by Alsharani.

24: Dzagoev departs, Cheryshev on for Russia.

23: Russia's three on two suddenly loses an attack as Alan Dzagoev pulls his hamstring on the counter, nobody around him yet he's straight down to the ground - clear muscle pull and the end of his game. Really unlucky for the midfielder.

21: Saudi Arabia with their best chance so far, Alsahlawi heading just wide from a ball in from the left. Akinfeev was scrambling a little. 

15: Almost a second! Russia slicing through the Saudi defence, Fernandes cuts one back to Smolov who has his shot deflected and then palmed away by 'keeper Almuaiouf. Replays showing that Fernandes was offside in the first instance, by some way, so any goal wouldn't have stood.

12: I did say that Russia were looking more powerful and it's paid off for them! A corner isn't fully cleared by Saudi Arabia, the ball whipped back in by Golovin from the left and headed back across the goal and into the net by Gazinsky.

GOAL RUSSIA! Gazinsky scores!

10: Little goalmouth action early on but the game's being played at a high-tempo which is good to see. Russia looking more powerful, their opponents seemingly a little more capable technically in possession. Interesting to see who strikes the first blow.

2: Dzagoev, who's likely going to be a key figure in Russia's attacking set-up, looks to work his way around a packed penalty area but is crowded out in the first Russian attack.

0: Kick-off! We're underway in the 2018 World Cup.

Russia's is longer, more powerful. Fans gave it a decent go but I saw nobody crying at the emotion of it all so it's just a 6/10.

ANTHEMS! Saudi Arabia's is short, bouncy and sung with some effort - 6.5/10.

Ah, great. Putin finishes, I'm waiting to tell you about the anthems but Gianni Infantino - president of FIFA - is now having his moment in the sun to talk. 

Not quite time for the football, Putin's taken it upon himself to do a speech. Not sure what he's saying to be honest, my Russian isn't up to scratch.

That's all over. Was a little bit 'dad down the pub after his sixth pint' but I enjoyed the colours. Now for the football!

Robbie's singing Angels now. Will Russia's midfield offer their defence protection, will love and affection be given to the host nation by their fans? Or will they merely love Angel Di-Maria instead?

I'm wondering if Russia and Saudi Arabia will entertain us, today? Not the most glamorous game on paper, but does anyone really care when it's the first one? An early Saudi goal would certainly be sensational. Or the home fans could party like a Russian if they score early. I'll stop now, before I say something stupid. 

As you may have guessed, the opening ceremony has started. Ronaldo is walking round with a happy-looking child, Robbie Williams is singing in a questionable red suit. This is what football is really all about.


Saudi Arabia XI: Al-Maiouf, Alburayk, Os.Hawsawi, Om.Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani, Otayf, Al-Dawsari, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassam, Al-Shehri, Al-Sahlawi.

Russia XI: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Igansevich, Zhirkov, Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Dzagoev, Smolov.

Team news is out!

There's also an enthralling opening ceremony to look forward to, with Robbie Williams performing for what should be a capacity crowd of 81,000 people. Ronaldo, the Brazilian one, is also expected to make an appearance. 

Russia, on the other hand, have lost four of their last six - only scoring more than once on one occasion, a surprising 3-3 draw with Spain. Their warm up matches haven't gone to plan, pundits citing their football as 'boring' following a loss to Austria and draw with Turkey. Russia haven't won a game this year, their last victory coming in October 2017.

Another advantage that the Saudi's have over Russia is that they've tasted victory somewhat recently. Despite having lost their last three, wins over Greece and Algeria in May will have offered them some confidence that they can pick up results at the tournament.

Saudi Arabia did manage to reach the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup, before bowing out of the group stages in three consecutive tournaments thereafter. Not qualifying in 2010 or 2014 was a blow, and they'll be out to return with a win today regardless of the odds. Russia will have taken note of their brave performance in a pre-tournament friendly against Germany, the little-fancied team putting in a good showing and only losing 2-1 to the current World Cup holders. 

One opener the Russians did manage to win was in last year's Confederations Cup, as they defeated New Zealand 2-0. However, they couldn't make it through their group, losing their following two group games. 

The hosts are fancied to keep the tradition of winning an opening game up, some bookmakers having Saudi Arabia as long as 8/1 to claim three points today. If Russia are to achieve what most fans are hoping for, making the last 16, a win today will be firmly needed. Egypt and Uruguay are the other teams in the group, both of whom are expected to provide a much sterner test than the one they'll face today.

Russia are seeking to avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first hosts to lose the opening game at the World Cup since FIFA shifted from using winners to hosts in the opener back in 2006. When they changed, Germany were hosting and defeated Costa Rica 4-2. South Africa could only manage a 1-1 draw against Mexico in 2010, whilst Brazil shook off a Marcelo own goal to beat Croatia 3-1 in the 2014 opener.

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with today's opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia kicking off a month long feast of football, with the world's best 32 teams to face off with their eyes on the prize of a World Cup trophy. We'll see 64 games, countless goals and hopefully some drama. It all begins at the Luzhniki Stadium today, with kick-off at Russia's national stadium set for 4PM here in the UK. I'm Oliver Emmerson and I'll be with you for every kick.