Russia started their World Cup campaign off to a flier, beating a hapless Saudi Arabian side 5-0 in the tournament opener. Villareal’s Denis Cheryshev scored twice while Yury Gazinsky, Artem Dzyuba, Denis and Aleksandr Golovin also got themselves on to the scoresheet. The match started after a brief but visually stunning opening ceremony.
The match remained goalless for exactly 12 minutes when Gazinksy opened the scoring. He leapt high to meet a cross perfectly with his head and sent the ball past Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
Luzhniki exploded into raptures after only 12 minutes when Yury Gazinsky headed home for the opener. Better still, with Russians looking for the early shoots of a footballing Renaissance in a side cramped by a financially rich but poor quality domestic league, the cross that set up the tournament’s opening goal came from CSKA Moscow’s 22-year-old Aleksandr Golovin.
Artem Dzyuba headed Russia’s third in the 71st minute – 89 seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Cheryshev and Golovin hit a further two in injury time, the latter from a free kick, to complete the visitors’ misery.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side had been termed by many former players and experts as one of the worst Russian teams to have ever played in a World Cup. Moreover, they were the lowest ranked team in the tournament, three places below Saudi Arabia. But on the day, they knocked all those notions of inferiority out of the park.