Normally by this stage of an A-League season, with just a handful of matches remaining before the semi-finals, form lines have been well and truly set.
The host nations shocked the football world, and probably themselves by destroying Saudi Arabia on the opening day of the 2018 World Cup 5-0. Perhaps it won’t be such a bad World Cup for the home nation after all.
As with our preview, here is the Who Cares review of the game. Giving you the most information about the game quickly, and conveniently, so you can impress family and friends.
Gazinskiy (12′), Cheryshev (43′, 90’+1), Dzyuba (71′), Golovin (90’+4)
Saudi Arabia 0
Was it worth the lack of sleep?
Sure, it wasn’t the highest quality match, but there were certainly enough goals to keep it interesting, some of them showing great skill. And it was entertaining enough.
If you got up just for the game and avoided the awful entertainment beforehand. Opening ceremonies are really sport’s biggest waste of money – aside from Closing ceremonies that is.
Game rating: 7/10.
So, what happened?
A nervous start from both sides, and it looked more A-League than Group A early, but that was broken when Golovin delivered the perfect cross to Gazinskiy at the far post, who was unmarked with another Russian player, despite a Saudi defender pointing this out to team mates.
The Saudi defence has reasonably hapless throughout, and it led to the second goal to Cheryshev, who had recently came on as a sub after injury to Dzagoev, providing the first heartbreak moment of the World Cup.
The second half meandered on, as Saudi continued having more possession, but dong bugger all with it. Some of the errors were basic, and they certainly looked like the lowest ranked team at this year’s World Cup.
They ended up with 61 per cent possession, but six shots, all off target, and realistically never looked like scoring.
More pain was inflicted in the 71st minutes as another sub – Dzyuba – scored not long after entering the game. 3-0 down and the Saudis were done and dusted. But not Russia.
Adding a cup more salt to the wounds, the home nation hit two goals in injury time, both of high quality as they started their hosting duties in the best possible way.
Cheryshev’s second was a masterful chip over the goalkeeper with the outside of the boot, and Golovin polished off his fine day with a very well taken free kick.
What did we learn?
Maybe it was the big occasion, pride for the country, or a glowering Putin watching, but Russia certainly stepped up, and perhaps all the doom that was spread pre World Cup.
Saudi Arabia were poor, and it does not bode well for the Asian teams.
The goal just before half time hurt the Saudi team. They looked unlikely to score a goal, let alone multiple.
Where to from here?
For Russia they can stride through Group A with new found confidence, and could even trouble group favoruites Uruguay on that performance.
For Saudi Arabia, there may be pain to come, as Russia were the weakest team they had to play. With their defensive issues, the looming match against Uruguay featuring Cavani and Suarez could see a big score posted.
Moment of joy?
Probably the third goal, as Russia looked to have sealed a first-up win.
The tearjerker moment
The first serious injury at the World Cup as Dzagoev did a hamstring.
Anyone who caught the preview at The Roar or the tremendous Greatest Show on Earth Podcast will know that we offered up this young Russian as our player to watch, and boy did he deliver.
Two assists, one cracking free kick right on full time, and was industrious throughout. Talk was he was going to use the World Cup as a shopping window for himself. Might need a deli style ticket system if he keeps it up. We just wished we kept him in our Fantasy side.
Other bits and pieces
The play banter between Putin and his Saudi counterpart and FIFA boss was very funny at 3-0. It was increasingly less funny for the Saudi chief at 5-0, but not for us.
The referee seemed to enjoy himself, and was entertaining to watch, and rightfully looked very happy to be there.
I couldn’t help but say “Omar Coming” every time I saw the shirt of Omar from Saudi Arabia. (The Wire reference).
Loved the first appearance of the wagging “World Cup Finger” by players at the first foul. It will be in use in my home for the coming weeks.
There is a joke somewhere in the fact that there was a Mexican wave at the Russian Stadium.
Did we see the first head knock of the World Cup that had no contact with the actual head for a Saudi defender in the first half? There will no doubt be many before the tournament is through. The competition is which body part that was actually contacted will be the furthest away from the head.
Sometimes the 90 minutes can drag on, so you need something else to keep your mind engaged at whatever in the morning it was. So here are the best from the Russia vs Saudi Arabia world cup opener.
Russian Manager Denis Cheryshev – there was a little Rene from Allo Allo about him.
Saudi Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi – looked like former F1 champ Emerson Fittipaldi.
Samedov (Russia 19) – looked a little like the guy yelling out Jackass in Happy Gilmore.