Rampant Russia pummel Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Fifa World Cup opener

US, Mexico and Canada to host 2026 World Cup finals

Substitute Denis Cheryshev scored two goals on Thursday (Friday NZ Time) to lead the host nation over Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Group A with President Vladimir Putin watching from the stands alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino.

So Morocco concentrated its pitch on the country's undisputed passion for football, the notion that Africa deserves another World Cup after South Africa 2010, its far more compact offering and Euro-friendly time zone. Golovin added the fifth from a free kick.

"We are not getting ahead of ourselves".

"I don't think we should focus on our friendlies", he said.

Constantly criticized in the ragged build-up games, Cherchesov had promised improvement once the phoney war was over and his energetic players duly delivered.

"To be good is one thing, to be good at the right time in the right place is another".

Russian Federation is grappling with Western sanctions imposed after its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine four years ago, but talking of a love of football uniting the planet "as one team", Putin said: "In this unity, over which no powers reign, in which there are no differences of language, of ideology or of faith, lies the great power of football, and of all sport".

Yuri Gazinsky initially put Russian Federation ahead with a header from Alexander Golovin's cross when the Saudis failed to clear a corner in the 12th minute. Russia's win was also the biggest in a World Cup opener in 84 years since Italy's 7-1 over the United States in 1934.

Russian Federation lost Dzagoev to a hamstring injury midway through the first half, the CSKA Moscow midfielder clutching his hamstring as he crumpled to the turf. It proved something of a fortuitous situation - if not for him - as his replacement Cheryshev doubled the lead with a mesmerizing touch of skill.

Collecting a pass from Roman Zobnin on the left of the box he showed great composure to nonchalantly flick the ball inches above two prone defenders desperately sliding in, before lashing into the roof of the net.

Saudi Arabia were under increasing pressure and Smolov's deflected strike was clawed away by keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf when play continued after an offside had been missed.

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