A Russian high five
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