Russia 5 – Saudi Arabia 1
The World Cup opened with Russia facing off against Saudi Arabia in Moscow. Early doors, Saudi Arabia were on their heels, defending Russia’s powerful, yet swift play most of which coming down the right side through Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes. The host nation rejoiced and relaxed their nerves when Aleksandr Golovin curled a failed corner to the far post, which was met by a towering header by midfielder Iury Gazinsky, putting it across KSA’s No. 1 Al-Muaiouf and into the net. In the 20th minute, what looked like bad new for Russia, Alan Dzagoev pulling up with a hamstring strain, turned into a goal before half time as substitute Denis Cheryshev doubled the host’s lead on a silly give away and a searing counter-attack started by Golovin.
Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov came out with much of the same in the second half, as Russia looked shaky in possession, but fluid and threatening on the counter. Saudi finally enjoyed a little bit of possession, despite Russia’s midfield pressing, and got two great chances near the hour mark, but both were missed by just inches. KSA’s rhythm was put to a complete stop as Golovin put in another beautiful ball for the 1.96 m (6′ 5″) tall Artem Dzyuba to cushion the ball in the back of the net with a header.
At 3-0 down, Saudi Arabia still tried to fight back, albeit with heavy hearts and looking completely gassed. Their poor defending and lack of pressure led to an outside the box, beautiful howler from Cheryshev, who used the outside of his right foot to curl it just out of Al-Muaiouf’s reach. Aleksandr Golovin (surely the Man of the Match) gave his country one last hooray, lifting the ball into the net from a free kick in injury time.
Uruguay 1 – Egypt 0
There was a certain confidence that the Egyptians played with early on, even with talisman Mo Salah starting on the bench. The Pharaohs stayed tight on Uruguay, turning their pressing of La Celeste into mistakes, which eventually turned into an equal possession game.
Both sides got their chances half an hour through, Uruguay looking the more threatening with a couple of hopeful shots on target and a rare missed tap in by Luis Suarez at the far post. It was a very defensive first half overall with even Diego Godin getting increasingly frustrated and running into space at one point to almost put Giorgian De Arrascaeta through on goal, but a poor touch from the Cruziero man spoiled Godin’s impressive pass.
The second half opened up with both sides getting their chances. Egypt started to move the ball quicker, creating a couple of decent chances from their wingers Trezeguet and Amr Warda. Suarez and Cavani began to find their rhythm together, the former fumbling a one-on-one chance, the latter blasting a shot from outside the box that was turned away brilliantly by Egypt’s Mohamed El-Shenawy. The two dominated the last 10 minutes, but it was Jose Gimenez that scored the vital goal in the 89th minute from a free kick because of a number of needless fouls given away by the Pharaohs defense.
Russia stay top of the group, on goal difference, level on points with Uruguay. Egypt fall to third, while Saudi Arabia look in deep trouble with a -5 goal difference.