A Rus­sian high five

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Russia launched the World Cup party in style when they thrashed Saudi Ara­bia 5-0 in the tour­na­ment’s open­ing match yes­ter­day to give the host na­tion the lift they des­per­ately needed after a nine-month win­less run.

Sub­sti­tute De­nis Ch­ery­shev scored twice after Yuri Gazin­sky headed the World Cup’s first goal after 12 min­utes.

Artem Dzyuba was also on tar­get a minute after com­ing on as a 70th-minute sub­sti­tute and 22-year-old Alek­sandr Golovin com­pleted a mem­o­rable day by smash­ing in a free kick with the last ac­tion of the game.

The re­sult equalled the best in a World Cup open­ing game – Brazil beat Mex­ico 5-0 in Geneva in 1954 – and watching Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin wasted no time in phon­ing coach Stanislav Cherch­esov to con­grat­u­late him.

“We are not get­ting ahead of our­selves.

“We saw that we are on the right track but we should for­get this game and con­cen­trate on the next one,” 54-year-old Cherch­esov said after end­ing a seven-game win­less.

Crit­i­cised in the build-up games, Cherch­esov had promised im­prove­ment once the phoney war was over and his play­ers duly de­liv­ered.

It also helps if you are fac­ing a team who have now lost eight and drawn two of their last 10 World Cup matches.

Coach Juan An­to­nio Pizzi does not speak Ara­bic, but it will not take long for them to be­come aware of his Span­ish de­scrip­tion of their per­for­mance as shame­ful.

Russia’s fans will be aware the Asian side look ille­quipped to trou­ble Egypt or Uruguay, who meet to­day, and that there is much to be done for the hosts to progress to the knock­out stage.

Alan Dza­goev had been at the heart of things in mid­field but had to go off after pulling a ham­string in the 23rd minute. One man’s mis­for­tune is an­other’s op­por­tu­nity as his re­place­ment Ch­ery­shev dou­bled the lead.

Col­lect­ing a pass from Ro­man Zob­nin, he non­cha­lantly dinked the ball inches above two prone de­fend­ers slid­ing in, be­fore lashing into the roof of the net.

Russia made it 3-0 in the 71st minute when Golovin chipped in a cross for gi­ant striker Dzyuba to rise and head in from close range.

Ch­ery­shev then ri­fled home an un­stop­pable curv­ing fourth with the out­side of his foot be­fore Golovin capped a great per­sonal per­for­mance by curling his free kick be­yond the wall.

Russia can now pre­pare to face Egypt next week full of con­fi­dence, while Saudi Ara­bia need to find in­stant im­prove­ment if they are to avoid fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment against Uruguay. – Reuters

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