Yuri Gazinskiy’s headed goal in the 12th minute was all Russia needed, and the hosts added three goals in the final twenty minutes to win going away 5-0 over Saudi Arabia. The unexpected result for 70th-ranked Russia significantly increases their chances of emerging from a group boasting favorites Uruguay and Egypt.
Real Madrid youth product and current Villarreal CF left winger Denis Cheryshev made it 2-0 just before halftime, and he added a second in stoppage time before a heavily-partisan crowd in Moscow. Zenit St. Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba scored in the 71st minute, and CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin completed the scoring late in stoppage time to seal the decisive opening victory.
67th-ranked Saudi Arabia was expected to hold its own against a Russian side that entered the competition in less-than-ideal form. Despite owning 61% of possession, the Saudis fell victim to Russia’s physical style, with the hosts committing 22 fouls to the Kingdom’s 10. Russia easily outshot their opponents 14-6, with half of those on target. Conversely, Saudi Arabia didn’t register a single shot on frame.
Saudi Arabia isn’t good competition, but this is a big win for the host country. Not only did Russia collect full points, but they did so in convincing fashion. Egypt’s narrow loss in day two makes Group A pretty interesting. Can Russia make it to the Round of 16? Time will tell.
Uruguay best Egypt 1-0 on Friday morning. Russia’s next match is on June 19 vs Egypt. Saudi Arabia faces Uruguay in its second match of Group A on June 20.