hat a display from the host nation in the very first match of the tournament. They led 2-0 at half time, but ran over a hapless Saudi Arabia team in the second half. Substitute Denis Cheryshev was the star of the show, scoring a double after coming of the bench. Gazinskiy, Dzyuba and Golovin also scored one each, as Russia get off to the perfect start.
The Saudi Arabia attack enjoyed majority of the possession, but had 0 efforts on the target. A uphill task for Saudi to even stand a small chance to pass the group stage now.
FULL TIME: RUSSIA 5-0 SAUDI ARABIA
90' + 3': A free kick with just seconds to go. GOAL! Golovin scores a beauty. What a free-kick! Right over the wall. The goalkeeper has no chance again.
90' + 1': GOAL! What a strike from Cheryshev. An absolute belter. A long ball is headed down by Dzyuba. The onrushing Cheryshev takes one touch, and hits a brilliant strike, with the goalkeeper having no chance. RUSSIA 4-0 SAUDI ARABIA
90': Corner for Russia, but once again its a poor delivery. In a day full of positives for the host nation, the delivery from set pieces has been very ordinary. 3 MINUTES ADDED ON!
88': Yellow card for Golovin, after he pulls back a Saudi Arabia player. Pretty needless from him though.
87': The corner isn't the best one for Russia, but little does it matter, as they enjoy an unassailable lead.
86': Free kick for Russia on the left side. Zhirkov takes it, and it causes havoc in the Saudi box. The ball goes off for a corner.
84': Despite leading 3-0, Russia seem interested in going for more. Kuzyaev has an effort from 30 yards out, but it's way up in the stands.
82': Not one, I repeat, not one shot on target by Saudi Arabia, despite enjoying over 60 per cent of possession.
77': Free kick for Russia in a good position. A delightful ball is put in the box by Golovin, but the header is wide by Gazinsky.
74': It seems that the goal has woken up Saudi Arabia. It's all too late though for them. Al-Dawsari has an effort from 25 yards, and its not that wide. SUBSTITUTION, Hattan Babhir comes in for Yehya Al Shehri.
71': GOAL! What a substitution. Dzyuba, who just came in, has scored the third goal for Russia. It all comes from a delightful cross from Golovin. Russia 3-0 Saudi Arabia
69': Kuzyaev goes on a run, and has an effort on goal. The goalkeeper makes a mess of it, and Smolov nearly scores from the rebound. SUBSTITUTION, Dzyuba comes in for Smolov.
65': SUBSTITUTION, Fahad comes in for Saudi Arabia for Abdullah Otayf. Semedov goes off for Russia, with Kuzyaev coming on. CHANCE FOR RUSSIA! Smolov goes on the wing, and puts in a decent cross. The header is weak by Cheryshev, as the ball is easilly saved by Al-Maiouf.
62': A pattern has formed. Russia are waiting and waiting for Saudi to come on the front foot, and then they counter. But for the onlookers, its getting very slow, as both teams struggling in the attacking area.
58': Free kick for Saudi on the left hand side. It is swung in the box, but it is headed wide by Al-Faraj. Anyway, it was offside.
56': Saudi Arabia are dominating the possession, but have done absolutely nothing with it. Brilliant cross from the right by Al-Burayk, but no Saudi attacker manages to get a decisive touch to it. But finally something promising for the visitors.
52': Chance for Russia, but its just over. Samedov has an effort from nearly 25 yards out, and its not too far. Saudi dominating the ball, but Russia dominating the chances.
50': Saudi Arabia have the ball, but they are doing nothing with it. Russia use a long ball, and Smolov is nearly through on goal. But a last-ditch challenge means Russia have a corner.
47': No side has ever come back from two goals down to win a match in the first fixture of the World Cup. Bad omen for Saudi.
The players are coming back on the pitch!
Russia have done the job, scoring two goals by the end of 45 minutes. They have been barely threatened by a Saudi side who don't look up for the occasion. The hosts took the lead in the 12th minute, after Gazinskiy headed home from a brilliant cross by Golovin. But Russia were dealt with a major blow, as Dzagoev had to be substituted due to a hamstring injury.
The match slowed down after that, with both the teams struggling to up the ante. But in the 43rd minute, substitute Cheryshev doubled the lead after some brilliant play on the right side.
HALF TIME: RUSSIA 2-0 SAUDI ARABIA
43': Great play from Cheryshev on the left hand side, as he bamboozles the Saudi defence. But he becomes selfish and the ball goes for a goal kick. GOAL! Cheryshev makes amends for his selfishness in the previous minute by doubling his side's lead. Receiving the ball from Zoblin, he produces a stunning skill, and then blasts the ball into the net.
40': The Saudi Arabia head coach is frustrated at the touchline. The only player from the visiting team looking up for the occasion is skipper Osama Hawsawi.
35': Call for penalty by Russia! The hosts break towards the opposition box. Golovin tries to take on the defender in the box, and falls under the challenge. The referee clearly rules out penalty calls from the player.
31': Saudi midfielder Salem Al Dawsari has an effort from 30 yards out, but its way over. Still nothing to do for Akinfeev. Free kick in a good position for Saudi, conceded by Zhirkov. A good ball in the box, but the header is well over the bar.
27': The substitution seems to have knocked the stuffing out of both the teams. It seems all very slow at the moment. Both the teams are unable to hold on to the ball, and giving it away very cheaply.
24': Oh boy! Dzagoev is clutching his hamstring, and looks set to depart. This will a huge blow for Russia, given the creativity he has. SUBSTITUTION, former Real Madrid midfielder Denis Cheryshev comes in for Alan Dzagoev.
21': Counter from Saudi, and nearly a goal. A good build up play from the back allows the visiting team get free on the left hand side. A cross is put into the box, but good defending by Russian defence only results in a corner.
19': Russia have taken the lead, and now can control the game at their pace. Currently, Saudi Arabia are unable to pose any kind of threat, and the home team keeper Akinfeev has had nothing to do till now.
15': Now Russia seem to be in the mood. Another attack, this time from the right hand side nearly results in another for the hosts. But some last ditch defending saves the day for the visitors.
12': GOAL! The hosts take a lead after Saudi fail to deal with a corner. The ball is back in Russia, and A. Golovin puts a brilliant ball into the box, and Yury Gazinskiy heads home for the first goal of the World Cup 2018.
10': Another corner for Russia after relentless pressure near the Saudi penalty area. Zhirkov to take it. It's a disappointing delivery, which allows Saudi to counter from it. But their attack is cut-short.
8': First attack of the match for Russia, but a brilliant block from Saudi skipper Omar saves the day for the visiting team. Now its time for Russia to dominate possession and keep the ball.
6': Nothing much happening in the match. Saudi have the ball, and they have an effort on goal, but it is blocked. Small cry for handball.
4': First corner of the match for Russia, but they can't do anything from it. The ball is back in the possession of the visiting team.
2': A quiet first couple of minutes to the inaugural match of 2018 World Cup. Russia has the ball in the early stages.
And we are underway!
The players are ready for the national anthem!
Less than 15 minutes to go for the extravaganza!
Guess who brought out the World Cup trophy?
Here it is. The starting XI are out.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov, Yuri Gazinskiy, Roman Zobnin; Aleksandr Samedov, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin, Fedor Smolov
Saudi Arabia: Abdullah Al-Mayoof, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Yasir Al-Shahrani; Abdullah Ateef, Salem Al Dawsari, Salman Al Faraj, Taiseer Al Jassam, Yahya Al-Shehri, Mohammed Al Sahlawi.
Now isn't this mouth-watering?
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Let the predictions begin!
So this is it! The World Cup is back after four long years. This edition is being played in Russia. The tournament commences on June 14, and will conclude on July 15. Hosts Russia will play the first match against Saudi Arabia.
Defending champions Germany are on of the favorites to retain their crown, though, they will face stiff competition from 2010 champions Spain, 1998 winners France and five-time champions Brazil. While these three teams are expected to win, the likes of Argentina, Portugal and England are the outsiders to take home the trophy.
While these are the teams expected to win the trophy, there are three 'black horses' for the tournament.
1. Belgium: There is a very strong reason to consider Belgium as favorites, but it's way too early for that. The team managed by Roberto Martinez has many outstanding players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin de Bruyne. The quality in their midfield is second to none. Yet, they are no Spain or Germany. The growth of Belgium has begun only in recent time, and its fair to say not many within the team would actually believe they go till the end. Though, it won't be wrong to say given the quality they have, a surprise is very possible.
2. Croatia: They are arguably in the Group of Death, yet, the Croatian team will feel extremely confident of passing the group stage comfortably. That is a very minimum which the team should dream of, given they have the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. The quality in their midfield is particulary good, and that might make them dream of winning the trophy. But in all honesty, that is improbable.
3. Uruguay: They were the dark horses back in 2010, they are the dark horses in 2018 as well. There is no denying the quality they possess. Well, not many teams can say they have two world class defenders in Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, and two strikers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Yet, beyond these four players, there isn't much quality. The good thing for Uruguay though is the fact they can claim to have the easiest group, with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as their opponents. A qualification from group stages should be all but confirmed, and with the four world class players, you can put a cent on them doing the unthinkable.
A couple of teams have suffered off the field issues ahead of the extravaganza. Spain saw a change in their head coach, as Fernando Hierro took over from Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked on Wednesday following his decision to sign a contract with Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Germany also have been hit by an issue to couple of their players. Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan have been caught in controversy following their decision to take a picture with the Turkish President earlier this May.
It sparked outrage within their country, with a section of fans booing Gundogan and Ozil during Germany's friendlies against Austria and Saudi Arabia. Their manager, Joachim Low though, came out in their support, and criticized the fans for their reaction towards their players.