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Host nation thrashes Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener

Moscow, Thursday @PeopleSports11

Host nation Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their World Cup opener to take control of a Group A that also has Uruguay and Egypt.

After President Vladimir Putin declared the tournament open at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Russia were in control at half-time after Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the tournament with a 12th minute header from Aleksandr Golovin’s cross.

Russia suffered a blow when Alan Dzagoev had to leave the field with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring. With the Saudi team increasingly stretched by Russia’s attacking play, Dzagoev’s replacement Denis Cheryshev smashed home a shot from short range two minutes before half-time.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s men dominated their opponents with their clinical edge in the final third and Artem Dzyuba was the second player to come off the bench to find the net when he headed home the third goal.

In stoppage time Cheryshev scored a beauty with the outside of his left foot—his second goal of the match—before Golovin capped off the game by curling home a free kick.

Russia now have momentum to take into their next two group games after making the perfect start to the tournament. Saudi Arabia on the other hand need to get themselves into gear ahead of their next outing against Uruguay.

The mood was buoyant and politics was left on the touchline as thousands of Russian and foreign fans turned out to watch the match.

Flag-waving supporters from all over the world let out huge cheers and chanted “Russia!” as the host team scored twice in the first half in the city’s Luzhniki stadium.

A crowd of some 10,000 people, including many families with young children, were crammed into a fanzone on a hill above the stadium with giant screens set up to watch the game.

Russian fans were less numerous than international ones, but were rooting for their team to pull off a triumphant start to the championship.

“I was really worried but it turns out we’re not that bad. I’m sure we’ll win the game now. Good for them!” said Anton Irofeyev, 29, a shop manager.

“I keep hearing so much bad stuff about our team but somehow I knew things would be ok, especially against the Saudis,” said Igor Antonov, a 40-year-old school teacher.                                                                                  -AGENCIES

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