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Russia kick-started its 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign in style as they manhandled Saudi Arabia 5-0 on Thursday, June 14 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Substitute Denis Cheryshev made two goals while Artem Dzyuba, Yury Gazinsky, and Aleksandr Golovin scored a goal each for Russia. With the victory, the Russians grabbed three points to lead Group A.
A Start To Remember
Ranked by FIFA as the worst team in this year’s World Cup, the Russians knew that the odds of pulling off a single victory are stacked against them. The ranking did little to affect the morale of the home squad as Gazinsky scored on a beautiful header at the 12th minute to give Russia a 1-0 lead early.
The Russians momentarily suffered a debacle when midfielder Alan Dzagoev left midway into the first half due to an apparent hamstring injury. However, Russia managed to keep things under control as Cheryshev found the target in the 43rd minute to double their lead.
The Saudis showed some fighting resistance in the second half when Mohammad Al Sahlawi unleashed a shot on a goal that went wide. It proved to be the last hurrah for the visiting nation as Dzyuba scored a header on the 71st minute to extend Russia’s lead to 3-0 before Cheryshev scored another goal and Golovin stole the show with the last kick of the opening game.
Despite the victory, Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov knows that making it out of the group stages and advancing to the next round won’t be an easy task. The Russians will battle Egypt and Uruguay in their last two matches in the group stage.
“Egypt will be a different game, city and stadium. We need to meticulously prepare ourselves,” Cherchesov said.
In addition, the home squad will have to win either of those games to qualify into the next round. On the other hand, Cheryshev also became the first player to come off the bench and convert two goals in an opening World Cup match.
Interestingly, Russia has already eclipsed its total goals scored in their last two World Cup appearances. In 2002, the Russians converted four goals and only two goals in 2014.
Saudi Arabia team manager Juan Antonio Pizzi couldn’t help but feel disappointed with his squad’s performance citing that they must change their way of attack to have a good chance of moving on.
“I think that a poor performance explains the result. As for our strategy, we must change,” Pizzi closed.
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