Russia Watch: Host nation opens 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with a bang

Russia put aside some indifferent pre-tournament form to open the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with a big win over Saudi Arabia to delight the locals and provide the perfect start to the event.

Elsewhere there was some big support for England to make a splash in Russia while Spanish skipper Sergio Ramos stormed out of his pre-match press conference ahead of their clash with Portugal.

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It’s all here in the first of our daily wraps looking at the news from the FIFA World Cup™ with our Russia Watch.


Host nation Russia ensured the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ got underway in the perfect with a crushing 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Moscow.

Denis Cheryshev scored a brace for Russia as they made light work of the Saudi’s, ensuring the host nation has never lost their opening match at a FIFA World Cup™ in all 21 editions of the tournament.

Yuri Gazinskiy, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin – who struck a sublime free-kick at the death – all got on the scoresheet as Russia made an emphatic statement.

The only blow for the home side was a hamstring injury to star playmaker Alan Dzagoev, who limped off in the first-half.

"There are no words to express what I'm feeling. I'm happy that we won, that I could help my team,” Cheryshev said.

"I'm happy for the team and for my family as they've suffered so much due to my injuries, they deserve this result.

"We shouldn't stop here, at any moment when you relax you can be kicked out."

It was a shocking start to the tournament for Saudi Arabia, who have now failed to win any of their last 11 games at a FIFA World Cup™ tournament.

A Russian fan enjoys her team's big win over Saudi Arabia.
A Russian fan enjoys her team's big win over Saudi Arabia.


They may have less expectation on them than previous years but Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho believes the Three Lions have enough top-level experience to go all the way in Russia.

But Mourinho, whose United players Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford are all in the squad, feels England have the talent to lift the trophy.

"I think they can [win the World Cup. I think they have a good group of young but experienced players," Mourinho said.

"They're at a good age but good level of experience, all of them. They play in the best domestic competition in the world, the Premier League.

"All of them playing in the best teams, all of them with experience of playing Champions League which is high-level football obviously. So yes I think they can do it."

England face Tunisia in their opening game on the weekend, with Panama and star-studded Belgium their other opponents in Group G.

While Mourinho is backing England to have a successful tournament, another ex-Red Devils star has hinted they could be set for an early exit.


Spain captain Sergio Ramos likened Thursday's news conference to a "funeral" as he cut short his pre-match media commitments having fielded numerous questions about the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.

Lopetegui's shock departure dominated headlines on the eve of Spain's World Cup Group B opener against neighbours Portugal in Sochi, where Ramos and new head coach Fernando Hierro fronted a huge media contingent inside Fisht Stadium.

Ramos was asked about the decision to sack Real Madrid-bound Lopetegui just two days before Spain open their World Cup campaign and the skipper was in no mood to dwell on the 51-year-old's exit.

After being forced to answer repeated questions on Lopetegui’s sacking, Ramos eventually had enough.

"I would just like to leave this press conference because it seems like a funeral as we are starting a World Cup tomorrow, which is marvellous,” he said before walking off with a smile on his face.

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Robbie Williams performs at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ .
Robbie Williams performs at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ .