Russian Federation blasts Saudi Arabia in opening match

A general view of the Ritz Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh

A general view of the Ritz Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh

Russia ended a 16-year wait for victory in the tournament by routing Saudi Arabia 5-0 Thursday in Group A, with the Russian president watching from the VIP box alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino and the Saudi crown prince.

Two goals from Denis Cheryshev, one each by Yuri Gazinskiy, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin gave the Russians the win, the second biggest by a host nation in their opening match in the history of the World Cup.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, arrived in Moscow on Thursday to attend the opening of World Cup 2018.

Russia, ranked a lowly 70th in the world-three places below Saudi Arabia-knows victory in its first match is vital, with tougher games against Egypt and Uruguay to come. I'm extremely happy that we have won but we shouldn't relax.

And the Saudi goalkeeper was beaten again in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Golovin adding to his two assists with a curling free-kick that left brought the home fans to their feet once again.

That's especially important for a country that prides itself on athletic prowess but whose last massive sporting event - the 2014 Sochi Olympics - was indelibly stained by revelations of doping so widespread that Russian Federation was banned from this year's Winter Games.

Russian Federation is the lowest-rated World Cup team in Fifa's world rankings, at 70th.

After nearly 18 months of an OPEC and non-OPEC deal to cut production, Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation have said they are prepared to pump more to calm consumer worries about supply and prices, which hit $80 a barrel, the highest since 2014.

Friday sees Egypt face off against Uruguay (with Mohamed Salah only fit enough for the bench), Iran play Morocco and Spain take on Portugal with their last-minute manager switch still looming over them.

But there was a major blow for the hosts mid-way through the half as star playmaker Dzagoev limped off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Cheryshev.

Russia's players were significantly taller and heavier than the Saudis, a help when challenging for the ball and when the penalty area was crowded.

Once again I can not see Saudi Arabia having any chance of winning hat match and as such it should go the way of Egypt who probably also end up in position two of Group A if they are lucky! "We did not show today what we have done in our previous games", Pizzi said.

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