Russia - Saudi Arabia 5-0 (Gazynski '12, Cheryshev '43 '90, Dzyuba '71, Golovin '90)
I was thinking that yesterday I said we should fight all the wars on a football pitch, while at the same time moaning today's game will be won in an office. And while I'm sure precautions have been taken, if this is all Saudi Arabia can bring to the table then Russia would've won anyway. The emphatic matter in which they did doesn't really count for anything, as the opposition has been incredibly poor and it was far from a dominant performance of the Russians. On the contrary, the Saudi had more possession and better passing accuracy, which goes to show the uselessness of Guardiola's football 'philosophy': possession and passing are useless without attempts, and the Saudis had none on target.
The game started animated enough, with both teams giving it a go in the beginning and with apparently an extra dose of aggressiveness from the Saudis, though their stamina levels dropped fast to the point where they weren't really in the game by the end of it, as shown by the two injury time goals.
But the Russians did get a goal pretty quickly and the crowds on Luzhniki forgot for a second they live under an oppressive dictatorship. One more before half time so the beers go down better, but only the fourth goal, Cheryshev's second, had any real skill contribute to it. Good chip with the outside of the right foot over the Saudi defenders whose main job in this game has been to make up the numbers.
So yeah, it was a bad idea to have the host nation, rather than the defending champions, opening the World Cup. This has provided the very memorable (not!) South Africa - Mexico and Russia - Saudi Arabia so far as games that have to live up to the hype of 4 years' expectations and a huge build-up, and we haven't gotten to the Qatar World Cup yet.
The Russians are now as good as qualified and they'll probably win the group. Egypt-Uruguay tomorrow should be quite revealing in terms of the shape of this group, and by the end of tomorrow we'll probably know who's going to win Group B, too. Oh, yeah, and there's also Morocco - Iran. Eid Mubarak!
|Man of the match?|