What to Know
- Russia, ranked 70, and Saudi Arabia, ranked 67, are the two lowest ranked teams in the 2018 World Cup.
- A host nation has never lost a World Cup opening game.
- This is Saudi Arabia's first World Cup since 2006.
Denis Cheryshev scored twice as Russia swept aside Saudi Arabia to open its home World Cup with a 5-0 win on Thursday.
After a lavish opening ceremony and with President Vladimir Putin watching on, Yuri Gazinsky put Russia ahead with a header off Alexander Golovin's cross in the 12th minute.
Substitute Cheryshev chipped the ball over two Saudi defenders in the 43rd and then fired it high to goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf's right.
Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header off Golovin's cross. In stoppage time, Cheryshev chipped the ball in for Russia's fourth goal in stoppage time and Golovin scored from a free kick.
It was Russia's first World Cup win since 2002 and ended a seven-game winless run in all matches.
Russia's next match will be against Egypt on June 19.
CLASH OF COACHES
Juan Antonio Pizzi and Russia's Stanislav Cherchesov bring very different personalities and coaching tactics to the tournament.
Pizzi won the 2016 Copa America title with Chile using an all-action style with constant pressure on the opposition.
Cherchesov favors a more defensive approach. Cherchesov, known for his prickly demeanor in interviews, responded to questions about what he'd say to Russian fans who are nervous about their team's poor form by saying he's "no psychologist, to go around calming people down."
Injuries disrupted Russia's World Cup preparations, with forward Alexander Kokorin and defenders Georgy Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin sustaining severe knee injuries earlier this year.
That forced Cherchesov into some late shake-ups. Cherchesov abandoned his usual three-man backline with wing-backs in favor of a four-man defense against Austria last month, but Russia lost 1-0 and failed to register a shot on target.
The average age of players in the Russia and Saudi Arabia squads is almost 29 — among the oldest in the tournament — and each boasts a pair of players with more than 100 international appearances.
For the Russians, there's captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with 105 caps, plus the 38-year-old central defender Sergei Ignashevich (121).
Osama Hawsawi has played 135 times for Saudi Arabia, and midfielder Taiseer Al-Jassim has 132 caps.
Russian football was embroiled in the country's doping scandal, with whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claiming his Moscow laboratory covered up failed drug tests.
Rodchenkov has said one player benefited from the cover-up, but didn't identify him or specify whether the player made Russia's final 23-man World Cup squad.
Defender Ruslan Kambolov, who was in the preliminary squad, was investigated by FIFA over alleged doping, but lawyers said FIFA dropped the case. FIFA hasn't confirmed that.