5-0: Russian Super Subs Sink Saudi Ship

Russia’s Cheryshev celebrates his goal. Image: Vivaronews

After four years of waiting, the eyes of the soccer world landed firmly on Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Under the intimidating gaze of President Putin and a hungry home crowd, hosts Russia provided a stunning demolition of Saudi Arabia and set the bar high for group A. Despite not boasting the star power and overall quality of the first match of the 2014 competition, a 3-1 win for hosts Brazil against Croatia, this match provided plenty of talking points and highlight reel moments.

  1. Super Subs in Stunning Supply for Russia

After losing centre attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev to a hamstring issue early in the first half, it looked as if Russia was going to need to cobble up a new method to exploit the amount of space Golovin and Dzagoev were abusing on the left side of the pitch. Enter Denis Cheryshev. The Villareal winger evaded two sloppy Saudi defensive plays and blasted a shot into the roof of the net minutes after coming on. The former Madridista also scored an early goal of the tournament contender, a shot with the outside of his left foot in the 90th minute, adding Russia’s fourth. Striker Artem Dzyuba converted a close ranger header with his first touch of the match for Russia’s third, capitalizing off of more poor Saudi marking. All in all, the Russia bench provided the firepower necessary to make a grand statement on home soil.

  1. Breakout star: Alexandr Golovin?

The 22 year old midfielder started out on left wing of the Russian’s formation and minutes after kick off, CSKA Moscow’s breakout young player swarmed the Saudi Arabia defence. He was the main man behind Russia’s ferocious counter attack and could seemingly play any pass he wanted. He capped off his night with 2 assists and an outstanding freekick goal in stoppage time to seal the 5-0 scoreline. With his electric performance, Golovin surely has made himself a player to watch as he will be licking his lips to test his mettle and creative swagger against Mohamed Salah and Egypt.

  1. Saudi Arabia’s Defence Crumbles On The Grand Stage

It is a rarity for teams to ship this many goals in the group stage, after all, goal difference can be an important tie-breaker in determining who progresses to the knockout rounds. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia displayed complete ineptitude in even the basics of defending so that by the end of the match, Russia looked like they should have scored with every possession. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi stated that the strategy has to change after their humiliating first 90 minutes. This change needs to be swift as the shadows of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Mohamed Salah loom large.


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