Russia World Cup ready to kick off with grand opening ceremony

Russia World Cup ready to kick off with grand opening ceremony

Substitute Denis Cheryshev scored two goals on Thursday (Friday NZ Time) to lead the host nation over Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Group A with President Vladimir Putin watching from the stands alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino.

After an opening ceremony which included British pop icon Robbie Williams, it took just 12 minutes for the tournament's first goal, with Gazinsky opening his global account with a well-taken header across goal.

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 Cheryshev's first goal, Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header from Golovin's cross.

There will not be many occasions when Saudi Arabia's players have enjoyed 62 per cent of the possession on the home turf of a European opponent and yet for much of the first half, as the world watched Russian Federation kick-off its own tournament, the team in green had the ball.

It was a game that many in Russian Federation had feared could turn into an embarrassment, but rather than let their country down, Stanislav Cherchesov's team gave the World Cup a flawless start by cruising to a 5-0 victory against Saudi Arabia in Moscow.

It was Russia's first World Cup win since 2002 and ended a seven-game winless run overall - the national team's longest winless streak in 20 years.

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The crown prince will later attend the opening match, which kicks off at 6pm KSA time. Preparation for the World Cup will not require major construction work because the 16 stadiums where matches will be played already exist.

In a World Cup first, the video assistant referee system was available for the match between the tournament's lowest-ranked teams, though it wasn't used.

Saudi Arabia also play Uruguay and Egypt in Group A.

The hosts could hardly have dreamt of a better start to their home tournament, putting the Saudis to the sword with the last two goals coming in added time.

Aside from wing-back Yasser Al Shahrani, who impressed down the left flank, Saudi Arabia offered little and did not even threaten a shot on target.

Russian Federation dominated in front of a sell-out crowd of 78,011 - and millions more on TV - at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium and also overcame a major blow when forward Alan Dzagoev had to limp off midway through the first half with what appeared to be left hamstring injury.

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