So it finally happened. The much-awaited kick-off for the 2018 FIFA World Cup came in style with Russia trouncing Saudi Arabia 5-0 on the opening day of the season.
But there was more to it than just the emphatic win. Two hours before the match started, the Luzhniki stadium was already half full, with Russian supporters dancing and singing on top of their voices.
Much focus may have been on the opening game, but the manner in which the opening ceremony was organised also deserves a worthy mention.
The clourful nature of the choreography, the performance by Robbie Williams (though controversial), and everything else on the day was just inch-perfect, setting up the tone for football’s biggest festival.
So much talk in the lead up to the tournament had centered on whether Russia would be able to match the settings of previous World Cups. However, after 90 minutes, it was clear that Russia is indeed ready to host the world.
And, just like the opening ceremony, so did the Russia national team also not disappoint. In a game which lacked tempo and intensity in the early stages, the Sbornaya still managed to put five goals past a hapless Saudi Arabia side.
Goals from Yuri Gazinskiy, Dennis Cherychez (double), Dzyuba and Alexander Golovin were enough to annihilate the Asian country in what was a one-sided encounter.
Before the game, both teams had struggled to win games. Russia had not recorded a win in any of their their previous seven games, whiles Saudi Arabia had also lost their last three consecutive games.
As a result, it was very difficult to tell which side was the favorite. However, from the blast of the whistle it was clear which country wanted the win more. Whiles the Arabians preferred to hold onto possession without purpose, Russia played to their strengths with coach Stanislav Cherchesov setting up his side to play on the quick counter.
Russia’s 5-0 win may have been aided by the sloppiness of the Saudi Arabia team but the fact is that the hosts did what needed to be done and were more clinical than their opponents.
There were two major highlights of the game: Cherychev’s sublime control before scoring Russia’s second goal and the marvelous free-kick by Golovin in the dying embers of the end.
However, overall, it was an amazing performance from the hosts right from the opening day ceremony to the first game of the World Cup.
Vladamir Putin will certainly be a proud man!