Russian Federation defeats Saudi Arabia 5-0

Putin was the surprise guest of honour at FIFA's annual gathering on the eve of the World Cup, and was welcomed on stage by Gianni Infantino, the governing body's president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud and Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino attended the opener along with further dignitaries and heads of state - but none from Western European or North American countries.

After a lavish opening ceremony and with President Vladimir Putin watching on, Yuri Gazinsky put Russian Federation ahead with a header off Alexander Golovin's cross in the 12th minute.

The opening game of the World Cup attracts a global audience of up to one billion people, so it is a real shame that Russian Federation 2018 starts with a game that is unlikely to provide a fitting prelude for what is to come.

Warm-up losses to Italy, Germany and Peru have not made for the best preparations for the Saudis as they chase a first victory in the World Cup finals since 1994 in their first appearance in the showpiece event since 2006.

But his replacement, former Real Madrid winger Cheryshev, celebrated his recent recall to the national side with Russia's second goal two minutes before half-time.

Canada will host men's World Cup matches for the first time.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf is beaten by a free kick from Russia's Alexander Golovin in extra-time of their World Cup opener. Preparation for the World Cup will not require major construction work because the 16 stadiums where matches will be played already exist.

It also helps if you are facing a team who have now lost eight and drawn two of their last 10 World Cup matches, whose defending fell painfully short of World Cup standard and whose attack was non-existent.

Russian Federation 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. Egypt and Uruguay play on Friday (Saturday NZT) in Yekaterinburg.

Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi does not speak any Arabic but it will not take long for them to become aware of his Spanish description of their performance as shameful.

  • Marlene Weaver