Russia’s Artyom Dzyuba scores his side’s third goal during the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Russia beats Saudi Arabia for first World Cup win in 16 years

Russia 5 Saudi Arabia0

MOSCOW — Russia opened its World Cup on Thursday with a quick, energetic opening ceremony that featured a giant firebird made from crepe paper, English pop singer Robbie Williams flipping off the TV cameras, a lot of juggling and a speech from President Vladimir Putin.

Then Russia’s national team went out and provided an encore, riding two goals from Denis Cheryshev and single scores from Yury Gazinsky, Artem Dzuba and Roman Zobnin to a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia before a crowd of 78,011 at Luzhniki Stadium.

Igor Akinfeev picked up the shutout in goal without making a save.

Russia — both the country and the team — made history just by showing up since this World Cup is the first to be played in Eastern Europe. They made some more history with the result, Russia’s first World Cup win in 16 years.

And the victory marked a big first step in what could be even more history since a win or draw in either of its next two games could carry Russia beyond the group stage for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

With Russia ranked 70th in the FIFA world rankings and Saudi Arabia at No. 67, Thursday’s game was the first World Cup opener to feature two countries ranked outside the top 30. But if the teams are nearly even in the rankings, they weren’t on the field, where Russia dominated.

The first goal of the World Cup went to Gazinsky in the 12th minute after he appeared to get his legs tangled with Saudi defender Taiseer Aljassam, sending Aljassam to the turf. That freed Gazinsky to head in a long, bending, right-footed cross from Aleksandr Golovin.

In a midfield luxury suite, squeezed between the stadium’s upper and lower bowls, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, reached across FIFA president Gianni Infantino to congratulate Putin with a handshake.

Cheryshev doubled the lead just before the half after Saudi Arabia gave the ball away near midfield. Zobnin sent a through ball into the center of the penalty area for Cheryshev, who then dribbled toward the edge of the six-yard box. When Saudi defenders Omar Hawsawi and Mohammed Alburayk both went for slide tackles at the same time, the Russian flipped the ball over Alburayk, fended off a challenge from Aljassam and lifted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf at the near post.

Cheryshev, who as a member of Spanish club Villarreal is one of just two Russians playing outside the country’s domestic league, wouldn’t have even been on the field if Alan Dzagoev, the team’s creative midfielder, not pulled up with a left hamstring problem in the 23rd minute. He hobbled off the field between two trainers moments later and could be out for the tournament, which would be a major blow for the home team.

Dzyuba extended lead in the 71st minute, seconds after coming off the bench, by heading in another perfectly placed cross from Golovin. Cheryshev and Zobnin then closed out the scoring with stoppage-time goals, tying Russia’s record for its most one-sided win in a World Cup match.

Russia now has four days to prepare for its next game, with Egypt, which will go a long way toward deciding if the home team will continue making history.

Just Posted

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update City Hall Park is set to begin Monday. The… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Judge lifts publication ban, revealing details about Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Newly released documents reveal how last week’s deadly attack unfolded… Continue reading

Canada’s tax system unfairly favours wealthy, poll of CRA auditors suggests

OTTAWA — A recent union-sponsored survey suggests an overwhelming majority of federal… Continue reading

Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair continues to lead fight against MS

TORONTO — Christine Sinclair continues to have an impact on and off… Continue reading

In Franklin’s anthems, women heard an empowering message

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin never saw herself as a feminist heroine.… Continue reading

Happy birthday Boler: 100s of cute campers in Winnipeg for anniversary gathering

WINNIPEG — Angela Durand sits outside her camper which is decorated to… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month