Russian Federation defies critics to throw World Cup party

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After Russia scored the first goal of the tournament, president Vladimir Putin gave Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman a shrug and a handshake that was captured by cameras.

Saudi Arabia not only voted for United 2026, but also campaigned against Morocco in the vote for the host of the 2026 World Cup.

Then, to the delight of the home fans, Iury Gazinsky headed Russian Federation in front in the 12th minute after a cross from Aleksandr Golovin.

The 2018 World Cup kicks off in a matter of hours with the host nation, Russia, taking on Saudi Arabia.

Historically, World Cup opening ceremonies have had, let's say, mixed reviews.

Russian Federation can now prepare to face Egypt next week full of confidence while Saudi Arabia need to find instant improvement if they are to avoid further embarrassment against Uruguay.

Putin enjoyed the game from his private box alongside Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who were friendly in the early part of the game, not so much at the latter end of it.

But after Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of this World Cup to give Russian Federation the lead in the 12th minute, a home win was never in doubt, and the feelgood factor this result will now generate is crucial for the tournament as a whole.

The hosts did better in the 43rd on another fast move, with the ball eventually falling to Cheryshev who rounded two defenders and smashed into the net at the near left post.

The forward was soon replaced by Dzyuba, who struck nearly immediately by heading another Golovin cross beyond a helpless Muaiouf in the 71st minute.

The win for Russian Federation is a big boost to its hopes of advancing, but it will still face a tough test against Egypt on June 19 and Uruguay six days later.

Saudi Arabia's route to the knockout round is much more hard.

The home fans finally held their breath in the 56th when Taiseer Al Jassam just failed to slide into a sharp cross in front of an empty Russian goal on the only serious chance for the Saudis.

Having lost several key players to injury before the World Cup, the loss of Dzagoev to what appeared to be a hamstring pull halfway through the first half of the opening game was merely another setback for coach Cherchesov.

Saudi Arabia also play Uruguay and Egypt in Group A.

Saudi Arabia had 60 percent of possession and played almost twice as many passes as their hosts, but were still blown away on opening day.