Join us tomorrow for what promises to be a rollicking day for football fans. Egypt and Uruguay start proceedings at 17.30 IST followed by Iran facing up against Morocco at 8.30 IST. The marquee game between Spain and Portugal will kick off at 11.30 IST.

Saudi actually saw more of the ball. Russia simply did more with it.

Image credit: FIFA
Image credit: FIFA

Denis Cheryshev is awarded the Man of the Match

What a start to the tournament. The under-fire hosts answer their critics in emphatic fashion. Their only dampener from this encounter was Dzagoev limping off and might miss the rest of the tournament. No problem, said Russia as they had two substitutes register on the scoresheet. Cheryshev might have scored one of the goals of the tournament and Golovin might have added another 20 million to his price tag with today’s performance. Saudi simply shuddered in front of the arclights and were brutally punished. It will not get easier against Uruguay and Egypt.

Saudi Arabia’s misery continues. What a curler from Golovin, who has had a dream evening at Moscow. Once again, we doubt if most keepers in the world would have stopped that. The ball went to the left of Abdullah, who could do little to stop the ball from going in. The referee also blows the full-time whistle.

90+3’ GOAL! RUSSIA 5-0 SAUDI ARABIA, cracking free-kick from Alexander Golovin

90+2’ Russia get a free-kick from outside the box.

A stunner and the pick of the evening. The substitute got the ball just outside the box, took a couple of steps and blasted a shot with the outside of the boot. No stopping that one as it hit the top corner. What a start for the hosts.

90’ GOAL! Russia 4-0 Saudi Arabia Denis Cheryshev gets his second. What a peach of a goal

Three minutes of stoppage time added

87’ Alexander Golovin gets the first yellow card of the game for a clumsy challenge. It was needless at this stage. The playmaker has been exceptional otherwise.

82’ Saudis have the ball but their travails to play the ball out of the Russian attackers continue. The pattern continues: Golovin and Co press aggressively and win the ball back.

78’ Russians have somewhat taken their foot off the pedal are playing keep-ball. There is no respite for the Saudi defence, though. They continue to defend in numbers.

Hatan replaces Yahia for Saudi Arabia

Once again, the Saudi defence is beaten in the air. Once again, it was Golovin creating the goal. Once again, it was a substitute. Brilliant delivery from the right-win. Dzyuba, who had come on just a minute earlier, thunders the ball home with a powerful header.

Another one goes in. Russians are running away with this. GOAL! Russia 3-0 Saudi Arabia

Another substitute for Russia. Dzyuba comes in for Smolov

67’ Ooooh! Nearly a third one there as Smolov was preying in font of goal. Abdullah spilled a long-range effort but the Saudi defence was alert to clear their lines on time. The Russian attacker was just a fraction away to net the rebound.

66’ Cheryshev continues to be in the thick of things. He directed a strong header goalwards, which keeper Abdullah saved with ease. Meanwhile, Saudis are finding the towering presence of Gazinski a menace in the middle of the pitch.

Substitutions for both side. Abudllah Otayaf is replaced by Fahad Al-Muwallad, who got his team to the World Cup. Samedov is off for Russia. Kuzaiev comes in for the hosts.

60’ The crowd is doing their best as their team continue to stream forward into the opposition box. This, though, was after Saudi had a good spell on the ball in the middle of the park. They didn’t do much with it, however.

Imagine if these legends got together

55’ GREAT CHANCE FOR SAUDI! Al Sahalawi from the right delivers a teasing ball into the box that eluded the Russian backline and went to the far post. All it needed was a feather touch, which Taisir Al-Jassim couldn’t provide at the far post. That was tantalizingly close.

51’ The attacks keep pouring in from the hosts, who are showing tremendous verve and zest in the opposition box. Alexander Samedov, from just outside the box controls it and smashes it goalwards. The ball went a few inches over the crossbar.

49’ Smolov nearly ran into space but won a corner for his side. Gazinski won the ball back for his side and passed it Zhirkov, who played a lovely ball over the top for the Russian forward.

47’ Saudis continue to be sloppy on the ball as the Russians continue to bomb forward with purpose. This could be a long evening for the Asian giants.

The second half is ready to get underway. The players are out on the pitch.

Image credit: FIFA
Image credit: FIFA

Russia have clearly dominated proceedings:

Image credit: FIFA
Image credit: FIFA


Half-Time: Russians run down the clock to the half-time whistle. There are some drooping shoulders that are visible in the Saudi camp. Russians have clearly been the better team and are deservedly 2-0 up. Saudis need to show a bit more courage on the ball. The packed stadium give a huge roar of approval.

42’ A bit of fortune in that one for Russia, who are now in cruise control. The pressing game worked in their favour. In a quick counter-attack akin to Klopp’s Liverpool, Golovin won the ball and made a good run into the box. His final ball to Cheryshev was a little delayed but the substitute still manged to keep possession and smash a thundering shot into the top corner.

GOAL! Russia 2-0 Saudi Arabia – Denis Cheryshev doubles his side’s lead

39’ The Russian front-three continue to press the Saudi defence, who are under considerable amount of pressure.

35’ PENALTY SHOUT! Golovin goes down in the box as he finds space from a quick counter-attack. Nothing doing, says the referee. Replays show that it was a rather soft appeal from the hosts.

33’ Once again, Russians find space in the middle and behind the full-backs. Smolov is having a fine spell on the ball and is in the thick of things.

30’ Saudi fail to captailise on another half-chance. They get a free-kick some 30 yards from goal. A loopy ball is floated in by Salman but the header goes way over the bar.

26’ Cheryshev is off to an encouraging start to the game as he making a surging run down the left channel. Golovin was waiting for the final ball in the box. The Saudis clear as Cheryshev goes for glory.

Denis Cheryshev has come on for the injured Dzagoev.

22’ Oh dear, what do we have here? Alan Dzagoev has collapsed on the turf and is clutching his hamstrings. It does not look good and the Russian playmaker is limping off the field. This may well be his last appearance.

20’ Ohh! Saudi nearly levelled things up in the game. Al-Sahalawi just needed a feather touch to take the ball past Akinfeev. It was a sweeping move that started in their own half.

15’ There was nearly a second for the Russians the Saudis somehow survive as there is a mix-up between two Russian forwards in the penalty box.

It was a quality move from the Russians. Zobonin and Zhirkov traded passes from the corner. The ball came back to the former, who found space and delivered a pin-point cross from the left. Gazinski rose above the defence to head the ball home.

11’ GOAL! RUS 1-0 SA – Gazinski scores the first goal of the World Cup

8’ More Russian possession as the Saudis fail to clear their lines. Golovin on the left wing is seeing a lot of the ball and is combining well with his No 10, Alan Dzagoev

6’ Saudi get space up front and have a brief spell of possession. However, Russia win the ball back and put Saudi under the cosh.

3’ Russia have had the lion’s share of possession in the early stages here. They won a corner in the second minute, which was taken by Zhirkov. There are signs of nerves from both teams.

We are ready for kick-off

National anthems are underway, starting with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia fans | Image credit: AFP
Saudi Arabia fans | Image credit: AFP

Fans of Russia and the Saudis are pumped up and why wouldn’t they be?

Russian fan at the Luzhniki Stadium | Image credit: AFP
Russian fan at the Luzhniki Stadium | Image credit: AFP


Russians have one more unwanted winless record to their name. Following their 2-0 win against Tunisia in 2002, they have drawn two and lost three in their last five games in the World Cup.

More fun facts: Japan’s 3-1 win over Denmark in the 2010 World Cup was the last time an Asian side won in the showpiece event.

The players have reached the tunnel. We are all set to rumble!

Ooooh...did Robbie Williams just flip the bird there?

Sergei Ignashevich, at 38 and 335 days will become the oldest player to appear for Russia or USSR in a World Cup match.

Robbie Williams has taken over. He belts out his hit number from the 90s, “let me entertain you”

Another fun fact: No host nation has ever lost in their opening game of a World Cup. Fifteen teams have won their games. There have been six draws and this includes co-hosts of 2002, South Korea and Japan.

The opening is ceremony is ready to get underway in Moscow


Russia: Akinfeev; Fernandes, Kutepov, Igansevich, Zhirkov; Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin; Dzagoev, Smolov

Saudi Arabia: Al-Maiouf; Alburayk, Os.Hawsawi, Om.Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani; Otayf, Al-Dawsari, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassam; Al-Shehri, Al-Sahlawi

Welcome to Zlatan, Russia.

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Good news, Liverpool, Mo Salah, Egypt and fans of players who score a lot of goals. Egypt’s talisman is ready to tear the wing in Russia and is almost 100 percent fit, says coach Hector Cuper.

Take a look at how Saudi Arabia announced their squad. There is a Malayalam bit too.

Fun fact: The only meeting between the Russia and Saudi Arabia was a friendly in October 1993. Saudi Arabia won the game by a handsome 4-2 margin.

Germany are tipped by many to retain the title. Here’s an interesting stat:

Get ready to rumble. All you history aficionados, here is a look back at all the editions in brief, starting from the 1930 World Cup.

Hello and welcome to the live updates of the first match of the Fifa World Cup 2018 in Russia. Hosts Russia get the ball rolling against Saudi Arabia at the completely refurbished 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Russia is spending more than €11 billion on hosting football’s showpiece, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. On the field, Russia and the Saudis do not represent the most glamorous opener – they are the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament.

The Russians have dropped to 70th in the world. Coach Stanislav Cherchesov is under immense pressure. His side have gone winless in seven games and the side have slipped to 70th in the world. Public scrutiny will also be intense “We have to take all the criticism and turn it into something positive,” Cherchesov said.

(With inputs from AFP)