World Cup Daily: Host Russia puts down the hammer on opening day
During each matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events, and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.
Here’s what happened on Thursday, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0, in Moscow: Match report || match stats || Winners and losers
WHAT STOOD OUT
Hosts drop the hammer on opening day
Russia kicked off the World Cup as the lowest-ranked of the 32 teams in the tournament – at No. 70, three spots below Group A rivals Saudi Arabia.
There’s some promising attacking talent on this Russian team, most notably Aleksandr Golovin and Fyodor Smolov. But by and large, this a dull and uninspiring side, leading to genuine concerns ahead of the tournament that the hosts would bow out in the first round – a terrible turn of events that would put a damper on the proceedings.
But Russia momentarily allayed such fears with a comprehensive 5-0 win over the Saudis in Moscow, putting their best foot forward with the world watching. No host nation has ever lost its opening game at the World Cup (their collective record now 16 wins and six draws following Russia’s big win).
This was a must-win for Russia, who earned its first World Cup victory since 2002 and ended a seven-game winless run overall. They could ill afford to drop any points against the modest Saudis, especially with South American stalwarts Uruguay and a Mohamed Salah-led Egypt also awaiting them in Group A. This was a good first test for Russia, one they passed with flying colours. Expectations should be tempered, though, because it gets a lot tougher from here on out.
Super subs rule the day
A 12th minute goal by Yuri Gazinsky swung …read more