Artem Dzyuba of Russia celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group A match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo
The Russian national football team began its voyage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a confident 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Thursday in Moscow in the opening match of the much-anticipated football championship.
The match at the legendary Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital has a seating capacity of 80,000 and today's attendance was reported at over 78,000 spectators.
Both sides looked confident at the beginning of the opening game of the global football championship, however hosts Russia, backed by the thunderous roar of supporters at the home stadium, opened the score into the 15th minute of the match.
Assisted by Russian midfielder Alexander Golovin, his teammate Yury Gazinsky put a header into the left upper corner of the net behind Saudi Arabian goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf to put the score at 1-0.
About half an hour into the first half, Russia's scoring midfielder Alan Dzagoyev boosted off for an offensive rush on the goal of the opponents, but fell down, obviously pulling a muscle. Head Coach Stanislav Cherchesov replaced injured Dzagoyev with Denis Cheryshev, who also plays as a left winger for Spain's Villarreal.
Less than a minute remaining in the first half it was Cheryshev to up the score, shooting the ball into the upper left of the Saudi Arabian net to leave 2-0 displayed on the stadium's huge digital screens as both teams retreated for the 15-minute break.
The teams continued testing each other in the second half, although Russia was still dominant in ball possession, just like in the previous 45-minuter.
Half an hour in the closing half both teams made replacements with Saudi Arabia switching Abdullah Otayf for Fahad Almuwallad and Russia replaced Alexander Samedov with Daler Kuziaev.
Several minutes later Russia's Head Coach Cherchesov opted for another replacement and sent in Artyom Dzyba in place of Fyodor Smolov.
The reshuffle brought an immediate result as less than a minute after hitting the pitch Dzyuba put a header into the right upper corner of the opponents' net.
The score of 3-0 seemed to remain flashing unchanged until the final whistle in the game, but in the three-minute stretch of the added time Russia's Denis Cheryshev upped the score to 4-0 with a swift shot of the ball over the Saudi Arabian goalkeeper.
This was not enough for the hosting team and less than a minute later Russia's Alexander Golovin scored another goal with a free kick sealing the final score at impressive 5-0.
Russia, placed in Group A, is playing its next Group stage match against Egypt on June 19 in St. Petersburg, while Saudi Arabia is facing Uruguay on June 20 in the city of Rostov-on-Don.
Russia selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.