Hosts Russia got the ball rolling in the 2018 World Cup with a convincing 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Moscow.
Robbie Williams provided the pre-match entertainment, with the cheeky scamp helpfully reminding everyone that we were about to watch game number one of the tournament…
Robbie Williams randomly putting the middle finger up at the World Cup ceremony 🖕😂 pic.twitter.com/QMoHjOYJll
— Filipe Orlando 🌏 (@MrFilipeOrlando) June 14, 2018
ITV’s very own Alan Partridge, Clive Tyldesley, didn’t disappoint either, sticking his own middle finger up to the Russian people by hailing Joseph Stalin for having a ‘proper moustache’ and comparing a local TV presenter to Borat.
Saudi Arabia started brightly, but it was Russia who would open the scoring with the first shot on target of the game on 12 minutes.
Yuri Gazinskiy was the unlikely goal-hero for the hosts, with the midfielder netting his first-ever senior international goal courtesy of a thumping header.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud shook hands, as FIFA’s Gianni Infantino played gooseberry (*insert lazy ‘Mock The Week’ type oil/match-fixing/Trump joke here).
— David Mbewa (@MbewaDavid) June 14, 2018
On 23 minutes, Alan Dzagoev, the only Alan in the competition, was forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury, breaking the hearts of us Alans all over the world.
The Saudis were struggling to contain the Russians now, and just before the break, Dzagoev’s replacement, Denis Cheryshev, scored a fine goal after wrong-footing a couple of defenders.
In the second-half, Russia continued to look comfortable and went 3-0 up on 71 minutes, via another substitute.
Beanpole striker Artem Dzyuba was the scorer, heading home within 89 seconds of coming off the bench.
In injury time, the two sub goalscorers combined, with Cheryshev producing an outstanding outside-of-the-boot finish from a Dzyuba knock-down.
There was still time for yet another cracking goal, this time via a fine Aleksandr Golovin free-kick.
The game would end 5-0 to Russia, thus continuing the tradition of hosts not losing their opening World Cup game.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 14, 2018
Despite being the lowest ranked side coming into the tournament, and being lambasted by the local media in the run-up to the start, Russia will have surprised a few people with their goal-fest.
However, Cherchesov’s side will face far harder opponents than the talented but frail Saudi Arabia (who failed to direct a single shot on target), starting with Mo Salah and Egypt next Tuesday.