Russia belt Saudi Arabia in mismatched World Cup opener

Written off and widely ridiculed by their countrymen, now that was some way to respond to your critics.

Russia opened the World Cup with a stylish display as the tournament’s lowest ranked side enjoyed an opening night high.

Labelled as the worst Russian side there has ever been and potentially the weakest ever host nation to compete, Stanislav Cherchesov’s team looked anything like the no-hopers they stand accused of being.

Ranked at an all-time low and without a win in seven in the build-up, they made up for lost time.

The team described as feeble in most areas and lacking in genuine quality pulled off the biggest first-game World Cup win since Italy beat the United States 7-1 in Rome in 1934.

There’s no disguising the fact they did only beat an extremely limited and disorganised Saudi Arabia, but a display which oozed confidence was a far cry from the team which were on a downward spiral going into the country’s biggest few sporting weeks.

As Robbie Williams belted out Let Me Entertain You minutes before kick-off, the Russians took it upon themselves to thrill the home crowd. Lethal, stylish and some wonderful goals, this wasn’t what anyone was expecting.

Two substitutes shone with three goals in the straight-forward 5-0 win, putting the shackles on their opponents who offered little in the way of resistance in Moscow.

It took just 12 minutes for the World Cup’s first goal to arrive, and what time to chose to score your first goal for your country.

Dominant. Pic: Getty

After a flurry of early corners the excellent Roman Zobnin delivered a pin-point cross and Yury Gazinsky wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to raise the curtain.

He guided his header back across the goalkeeper with the Saudi marking non-existent and the 28-year-old had the hosts up and running.

Denis Cheryshev, the Villarreal winger, expected to start but was reduced to watching from the bench. He proved his point to his manager after replacing the hamstrung Alan Dzagoev.

Cheryshev profited from fantastic play from Zobnin and he did the rest.

A wonderful touch allowed his to dance around three Saudi defenders and he thrashed the ball beyond Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

The Al-Suqour simply had to improve after half-time and they made early in-roads into repairing the damage.

Mohammed Al-Sahlawi was a toe nail away from converting a teasing Salman Al Faraj cross. They begin the half well, but it prove to be a false dawn.

Another goal was always there for Russia if they wanted it, and another substitute with a point to prove took his chance.

Giant striker Artem Dzyuba used all of his 6ft 5in frame to escape his marker and plant a header into the bottom corner, far out of the reach of Saudi’s well-beaten goalkeeper.

Cheryshev iced the cake with a beauty in the final minute with the outside of his boot before the fantastic Alexsandr Golovin added a fine fifth, a goal he certainly deserved.

Crisis? What Crisis?