Hosts Russia need a win over Saudi Arabia to feel good about their chances of advancing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
FULL TIME. RUSSIA WINS, 5-0.
90+5’ — GOAL RUSSIA, AND GOLOVIN GETS IN ON THE FUN. 5-0.
Golovin wins a free kick on the edge of the box, then curls it gorgeously around the wall and into the top right hand corner. Before the tournament began, we wrote that he needed to have a nice few weeks here to ensure that he was heading to a big European club next year. It appears that will be happening.
90 + 1’ — GOAL RUSSIA, AND IT’S CHERYSHEV AGAIN. 4-0.
How about a worldie to end it? Dzyuba demands the ball from a deep free kick, heads it down to Cheryshev, who takes one touch, then rockets one with the outside of his left foot into the top right corner. Cheryshev has still not touched the ball with his right foot AND IT DOESN’T MATTER.
How did Cheryshev follow up a beautiful first goal?
By scoring one like this.pic.twitter.com/cGq58weTrz
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 14, 2018
85’ — SUBSTITUTION SAUDI ARABIA: MUHANNAD ASIRI IN FOR AL-SAHWALI
Saudi Arabia gives their striker a breather and brings in Asiri to run around a bit for the last five minutes here.
80’ (12:40 p.m. ET) — I know neither of these teams are “good,” but I’m gonna be real with y’all, this game is so much more exciting and fun than I thought it was going to be.
Also, this has us laughing our asses off:
My favourite thing about Denis @Cheryshev is that he has his Gmail address in his Twitter bio, like a Huffington Post blogger.
— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) June 14, 2018
And he does have his email address in there! How can you not love the World Cup?
71’ — GOAL FOR RUSSIA, AND IT’S DZYUBA FROM GOLOVIN. 3-0 RUSSIA.
THE BIG BEEFY BOY SCORES. Another goal from a substitute, the 6’4 Dzubya this time gets on the end of a fantastic ball from Golovin on the right side. Golovin is out here serving up perfect balls and running this game, and his agent just shut his phone off from all the calls he’s getting from European clubs.
#MundialTelemundo De cabeza Artem Dzyuba marca el tercero de #RUS y así lo escuchaste con @AndresCantorGOLpic.twitter.com/XT0c8nL3WQ
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 14, 2018
70’ — RUSSIA SUBSTITUTION: DZYUBA IN FOR SMOLOV
WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT LAD. ABSOLUTE UNIT.
Dzyuba comes in to play striker for Russia and, one would presume, smash villages with his feet.
64’ — SAUDI ARABIA SUBSTITUTION: FAHAD IN FOR OTAYF
RUSSIA SUBSTITUTION: KUZIAEV IN FOR SAMEDOV
Saudi Arabia is going for it. Fahad, an attacker, is coming on for defensive CM Otayf. Saudi Arabia will move to more of a 4-4-2 with Al-Sahlawi leading the line and Fahad just playing off him.
Kuziaev comes in for Samedov, in a like-for-like substitution.
56’ — What a chance for Saudi Arabia. Al-Sahlawi nearly gets on the end of a cross in from Jassam, and the ball skips across the face of goal. Saudi Arabia has found a bit of success working down that right-hand side over the last few minutes.
If you’re Russia, you can’t be content to sit too deep here. The low-pressure, win the ball and counter attack tactic can work great, but you switch off a little bit, and now you’re just inviting Saudi Arabia into your half with time on the ball.
54’ — Cheryshev is awesome, and that goal was well taken … but do you think he knows he has a right foot and you’re allowed to kick with it? I feel like someone should tell him that.
50’ (12:10 p.m. ET) — Second half starting much like the first one ended — Russia happy to concede possession, Saudi Arabia unable to get anywhere with the ball, so they impatient and start creeping forward, then Russia launches the counter-attack. This time Zhirkov hits a ball over the top to Smolov, who is in, though his first touch just fails him and the ball is cleared out by a defender for a corner.
46’ — And we’re off for the second half. Can Saudi Arabia fight back, or at least keep this reasonable? Let’s hope!
45’ — HALFTIME
Well, that was a half of soccer. Russia will be delighted with both goals and the positive play of young Golovin, however they can’t be pleased with an injury to Alan Dzagoev. Sucks to say, but that injury has freed them up to play Golovin in as the second striker, and brought on Cheryshev, who looks very strong making runs down that left wing, and looked good in that goal.
Saudi Arabia will be lamenting some silly mistakes. They don’t have enough athleticism in the back line to commit turnovers in their own half, and they’ve been punished for those mistakes when they happen.
Re: that athleticism, Russia is leading Saudi Arabia in aerials won 19-7, via WhoScored. Saudi Arabia has actually had 63% of the possession, which tells you all you need to know about how the possession statistic can be misleading — Russia is playing this game exactly how they want to play it. They’re too big and strong for Saudi Arabia, and are fine letting them possess at length, because once they win the ball back, Smolov and Golovin are leading the charge.
I watched a lot of Saudi Arabia during the buildup to the World Cup.
This is actually a GOOD defensive performance from them compared to what I saw.
I’ll let that sink in.
— Conor Dowley (@c_dowley) June 14, 2018
43’ — GOAL CHERYSHEV, RUSSIA LEADS 2-0
Cheryshev loves his left foot! The substitute, a minute after blowing a chance for a cross because he refused to kick it with his right foot, gets the ball back and, after cutting back across two sliding defenders, gets it on his left and rockets in the top left corner.
It was Golovin again, who used his speed to close out on a turnover, collected the ball, two passes, and then it was Cheryshev.
#MundialTelemundo ¡Grítalo @AndresCantorGOL! @Cheryshevmarca un golazo y aumenta la ventaja de #RUS que vence 2-0 a #KSIpic.twitter.com/lz0UY5xPFD
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 14, 2018
36’ — Russia counter-attack leads to Golovin getting in 1-on-1 in the box, does a few stepovers, gets the ball on his right, and gets the ball taken off him by Omar. Golovin wanted penalty, but referee Nestor Pitana wasn’t having any of it.
34’ — Smolov tries to do the snake on the endline … fails, loses the ball, then rips the defender down by the arm. I love the attempt at the sauce, but come on Smolov, baby, that’s not what you’re there to do!
29’ — Saudi Arabia really wants to possess, and they have moments where they can make some interesting things happen with their passing. Salem had a decent chance for a shot. Their big issue is pace and physicality, especially in the back. They’re just really struggling to handle Golovin and Smolov right now.
23’ ALAN DZAGOEV INJURY: SUBSTITUTION, CHERYSHEV IN FOR DZAGOEV
Oh no. Dzagoev was running with the ball on a counter, and then pulled up and grabbed his hamstring. No one near him. This doesn’t look good, as he immediately fell into a heap and the sub was ready to go quickly.
Cheryshev will enter, and move to the left, pushing Golovin inside into that reserved striker role.
21’ (11:22 a.m. ET) — Saudi Arabia with a decent chance! A quick counter gets the ball to Yasser’s feet on the left wing, and he whips in a cross to Al-Sahlawi, who sort of shoulders it toward the near post, and the ball goes just wide.
12’ GOAL YURI GAZINSKY ON A BEAUTIFUL CROSS FROM GOLOVIN
It was coming. A corner kick was cleared, then collected by Golovin, who had a neat 1-2 with Zhirkov, got the ball back, then served a dipping cross to the back post, which Gazinsky heads down and across goal and in.
No pressure on either the ball in or on the two (!) unmarked men on the back post.
Así narró @AndresCantorGOL el primer gol del #MundialTelemundo #RUS 1-0 #KSA pic.twitter.com/OFByC7b4jc
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 14, 2018
10’ — Golovin has made a few very good passes and is looking very dangerous on that left wing. By the way — he’s 22 years old and is being looked at by some very big clubs right now.
Juve supporters anytime Golovin gets anywhere near the ball: pic.twitter.com/hGLsTYIjC3
— A West (@ayyy_west) June 14, 2018
6’ — Russia nearly gifted a goal on a shaky back pass that keeper Al-Maiouf was forced to clear away at the last moment. Russia looking to work it long up the wings early on, and finding some success getting the ball into the feet of Golovin on the left and Samedov — or as I call him, The Silver Fox — on the right.
0’ — AND WE ARE OFF. WORLD CUP. WORLD CUP. WORLD CUP. WORLD CUP. WORLD CUP.
10:54 a.m. (ET) Now it’s time for words from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, aka John Baby. He just said that this month soccer will conquer Russia, which, buddy, you better make sure Putin understands you’re saying that metaphorically.
10:50 a.m. (ET) Putin is introduced to the Russian crowd to loud cheers. The audio mix on his speech and the translator’s, at least on the Fox feed, is such that I can’t hear or understand anything. I caught something about friendly countries, and traditions, and something bringing us together. So uh, I guess let me know if he said anything wild?
10:43 a.m. (ET) Remember all that diplomacy I mentioned a moment ago? Nevermind. Robbie Williams just flipped off the camera! Ha! That’ll show all you idiot soccer fans singing along with his music! Joke’s on you, suckers!
O @robbiewilliams além de cantar mais uma DO NADA decidiu ser malcriadíssimo pic.twitter.com/KZ9jr8GOys
— VICE BRASIL (@VICEBRASIL) June 14, 2018
10:37 a.m. (ET) There’s “Angel.” We were waiting for it. It’s nice that Williams let Aida Garifullina sing it with him. Diplomacy. Also he appears to be wearing the skin of the rare scarlet leopard.
10:30 a.m. (ET) Fox’s kickoff video package just had a small boy walking on water, and I believe the music from those old airline commercials. The boy walks along the water, then joins Ronaldo, who hands the boy along to Robbie Williams, who then drops him off … I don’t know where. Then Williams starts singing among a sea of soccer people. That boy made a miracle, and we just lost him?!
Russia Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Akinfeev; Zhirkov, Igansevich, Kutepov, Fernandes; Gazinskiy, Zobnin; Golovin, Dzagoev, Samedov; Smolov
Saudi Arabia Starting Lineup (4-3-3):
Al-Maiouf; Al-Shahrani, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Breik; Otayf, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassim; Al-Dawsari, Al-Sahlawi, Al-Shehri
When the 2018 World Cup kicks off Thursday, the opening match will serve as a bit of an appetizer for the rest of the tournament. The game kicks off at 11 a.m. ET from the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and you can watch on FOX or Telemundo. You can watch online in English here, and in Spanish here.
Very few experts are expecting Russia or Saudi Arabia to make a deep run in the tournament, but the opener should be an exciting game anyway — both teams know they need to win to have a good shot to make the knockout round. The other two teams in Group A are Egypt and Uruguay, who will both be slight favorites against the hosts and big favorites against Saudi Arabia.
The match will be preceded by an opening ceremony with singers Robbie Williams and Aida Garifullina, sure to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and a slew of other dignitaries. It’s usually a good time, so make sure to tune in a little early.
Stay tuned for live updates, key highlights, and whatever else we feel like blogging about.
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia time, TV channel, and streaming info
Time: 11 a.m. ETLocation: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, RussiaTV: FOX (English), Telemundo (Spanish)Streaming: You can catch the game Fox Sports Go (English) and Telemundo Deportes en vivo (Spanish) for free if you sign in with your TV provider. It’s also on subscription services like Fubo and Hulu.Odds: Russia -1 (full odds at OddsShark)For listings from more countries, check out Live Soccer TV.
Russia needs Alan Dzagoev to wake up
The Russian attack has been quiet during warm-up friendlies. If the hosts are going to start scoring, they’ll need Alan Dzagoev to create chances. Dzagoev is the team’s primary playmaking force, but he’s missed the last two big tournaments — Euro 2016 and Confederations Cup 2017 — due to injury. He’ll be in the starting lineup this time around, though. If Russia improves on its bad showings in those competitions, Dzagoev is likely to be the reason.
This is a bit of a weird opener
In past World Cups, the host has been either a big-name favorite or a lovable underdog. This years hosts are neither, which makes Russia vs. Saudi Arabia a very strange opening match.
We’re left with a host that doesn’t have much of a narrative. It won’t be a huge story if Russia scrapes second to limp into the knockout stage, and it won’t be a huge story if they flame out in last place either. They’re the first World Cup host of their kind in years — a team that’s been average for decades, and that fans have accepted as average. For that reason, the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia feels very much like an opening act before the headliners come out.
But there are some technically talented individuals on both teams, even if the squads as a whole don’t look great. Dzagoev and Aleksandr Golovin are capable of spectacular assists for Russia, while Yahya Al-Shehri, a small, tricky winger, is Saudi Arabia’s best hope of creating something special