4 Things We Learned From the World Cup Opener as Russia Thrash Saudi Arabia in Moscow

Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening fixture of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday evening, but what does that mean and what can we take away from the game?


Here's a look at four things we learned:

4. Dzagoev Loss Will Be a Worry

Russia lost chief creator Alan Dzagoev just 23 minutes into the game with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring. Prior to his exit, the CSKA Moscow man had been at the centre of everything Russia did in the attacking third.


Depending on how bad the injury is, his tournament could well be over and that is bad news for Russia as far as future games against tougher opposition in the group stage and potentially beyond are concerned. No team can afford to lose their best players.  

3. Golovin Hype Appears Justified

When Dzagoev went off, the creative baton was passed to Aleksandr Golovin, the 22-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder who has been linked with a potential high profile summer move to Arsenal, Chelsea and Juventus in recent weeks.


He started the game out wide and didn't look overly comfortable, even though he put in the cross that saw Yuri Gazinskiy open the scoring. After moving inside to fill the Dzagoev void, the youngster flourished and at the heart of everything that was good about Russia.


He also put in the cross for Artem Dzyuba to score the team's third and then capped a fine performance by scoring a stunning free-kick.  

2. Saudi Arabia Lacked Structure and Physicality

Saudi Arabia aren't necessarily an absolutely terrible side and obviously had a degree of technical competence about them. But many of the players were guilty of minor errors that added up to a much greater sum and there was a total disarray in terms of defensive tactics.


Any technical ability was completely drowned by a near total lack of physicality and the players were too easily crowded out and pushed off the ball by the quicker and stronger Russians.


As the goals went in it was also clear to see the confidence drain from the players. There is nothing to suggest they will be able to correct their problems before the next game.  

1. Not a True Indicator of How Far Russia Will Go

The 5-0 scoreline looks good, but this game was not enough of a challenge for the hosts.


Saudi Arabia just couldn't compete and it made everything that Russia did look easy, while the excellent fourth and fifth goals from Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin respectively were the result of the added confidence from already cruising at 3-0.


Russia will face tougher games against Egypt and Uruguay and it will be those fixtures that really dictate what they will be do at this tournament and how far they might go.


The confidence from this win could give them an extra boost for the next two, though.