World Cup kick-off! Russia-Saudi Arabia LIVEBLOG

World Cup kick-off! Russia-Saudi Arabia LIVEBLOG
Minute-by-minute updates from the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
6 min read
14 June, 2018

17:52:02 - That's it from us for today - but we'll be back tomorrow with Egypt-Uruguay at 1pm and Morocco-Iran at 4pm...

17:50:36 - FULL-TIME. 5-0 to Russia. Just what Vlad ordered. Russia played scrappily with moments of genius. Saudi Arabia were pitiful. Looks like the Green Falcons may be the first to be knocked out.

17:49:20 - GOAL - Golovin strokes it in past the Saudi wall. Looks like he's not broken a sweat all game.

17:48:23 - Saudi Arabia's Taiseer picks up the first yellow card of the tournament. Free kick to Russia just outside the box...

17:46:15 - WHAT A GOAL! - Cheryshev's second of the match was an absolute beauty. A little curl from the edge of the box. Goal of the tournament (so far). 4-0 to Russia.

17:45:30 - There's three added minutes of this.

17:44:16 - When the first three points of the competition are in the bag:

17:43:09 - Well, this would explain a thing or two (or three)...

17:39:46 - Saudi Arabia take Sahlawi the striker, out of luck today, off the field. He's replaced by number 20, Asiri of al-Ahli. Five minutes plus stoppage to go.

17:37:41 - This will be just the start to the tournament the hosts will have wanted. But with Russia's other group matches pitting them against Egypt with the mighty Mo Salah and Luiz Suarez's Uruguay, I hope they're not getting their hopes up...

17:37:14 - Bit of a token effort there from Saudi Arabia in the Russian box.

17:35:07 - A short period of Saudi possession comes to an end with an ambitious lob towards the box. Russia counter with a short-lived break, and it's back to knocking it around midfield...

17:33:32 - You get the feeling that Saudi Arabia are just runing out the clock now, hoping not to get hurt much more.

17:31:52 - Free kick for Russia fails to find the net. Goal kick for the Saudis. 13 minutes to go.

17:30:49 -

17:29:39 - A change for Saudi Arabia - Alshehri off, Bahbria on.

17:28:51 - An immediate response to Russia's goal as Saudi Arabia's Salim connects with the ball in a solid strike at the opposite end. Sails wide.

17:26:17 - GOAL! Talk about an impact subsitution - Artem Dzyuba gets his head above the Saudi defence to nod in Russia's third. That makes nine goals in 13 international games for Dzyuba.

17:24:32 - Another change for Russia - number 10 Smolov (at one point linked with a move to West Ham) comes off the field, and the giant Dzyuba comes on in the number 22 shirt.

17:24:07 - Russia looking threatening yet again, but cleared down to the far end by Saudi Arabia.

17:22:39 - CLOSE! - Nearly a third for Russia amid some scrappy defending and some rubbish goalkeeping...

17:21:41 - Good spot. It's upside-down.

17:19:28 - The first changes are taking place. Saudi Arabia's number 14, Otayf, comes off and is replaced by Almuwallad in the 19 shirt, while Russia's Saredov (19) makes way for Kuziaev (7).

17:17:09 - To be honest, Saudi Arabia could be a lot worse. It's clear their deal to send their top players to Spain to gain experience in one of Europe's top leagues has yet to pay off - but at least they're giving it a go and not just parking the tanker in front of goal.

17:15:12 - When a picture tells a thousand words - this image sums up the game so far...

17:14:00 - Free kick for the Saudis, but a scrappy header flicks the ball over the crossbar. Still, some positive movement from Saudi Arabia in past few minutes

17:12:11 - The Saudis finally get an opportunity, but Al-Sahlawy can't get on the end of the bal into the box, and the chance is wasted.

17:08:56 -


 17:06:12 - No comment -

17:04:46 - Russia's number 10, Smolov, makes a piercing run towards goal, but it goes out for a corner... which goes nowhere.

17:03:45 - The Green Falcons making a strong start to this half. Except they don't seem to be able to keep possession. Or to keep the ball on the field. Other than that, they're doing great...

17:02:02 - Second half underway...

16:58:14 - Golovin is attracting a lot of attention for his contributions so far. Are any clubs are going to try to sign him after the World Cup? He's good - but is he that good?

16:55:10 - Here's a snap from Getty of Cheryshev belting home the second goal. Can't help but think there are more to come in the second half...


16:43:49 - And that's the end of the half. It's been scrappy. Saudi Arabia have had a few chances to attack, but possession and quality has been all Russia's. Let's hope the half-time oranges perk everyone up a bit...

16:41:59 - Well, that's brought a bit of energy to the crowd. This may be the only game Russia wins this tournament, so fans are making the most of it.

16:39:10 - GOAL! - Bags of space, weak defenders, little bit of skill - and Russia's Cheryshev fires it home into the roof of the net. 2-0 to the host nation.

16:38:59 - Russian crowds are on their feet...

16:37:51 - I think we would all have expected to see more from Saudi striker al-Sahlawi, who plays for Al-Nassr, in this opening half. Just five minutes to go now...

16:35:56 - Don't forget to check out our guide to Middle East teams at the World Cup!


16:34:52 - Though, having said that... It is still the World Cup!

16:33:26 - A clash of footballing titans, this isn't.

16:31:42 - And with that, Russia intercept and take a blistering turn of speed into Saudi territory. Ends in nothing though.

16:31:25 - This is much more like it for Saudi Arabia - pressing hard

16:30:34 - As of yesterday, there were still tickets available for this game.

16:28:43 - 31 minutes in, I think it's fair to say this won't be going down in the hall of fame of all-time great matches...

16:27:23 - The free kick comes gently into the box - and is headed well over the top of the goal into the stands somewhere

16:26:24 - Free kick for Saudi Arabia in great position, just outside the box...

16:23:54 - Where are you watching the opening match of the World Cup? Get in touch: @The_NewArab

16:22:29 - Of course, with Russia playing Saudi Arabia, the real question is who does Donald Trump want to win?

16:21:36 - Dzagoev limps away with a hamstring injury. Cheryshev on in his place

16:18:56 - Is that Dzagoev down with an injury? He's walking it off - but a sign of Russia's physicality that there's already one player down.

16:18:32 - Russia clear easily, and go on another break.

16:17:50 - Corner fired out of the box, some interplay, and it's another corner...

16:16:50 - First 20 minutes has been all Russia... but wait - here's a break from Saudi Arabia! Sahlawi fires it wide, but it's a corner...

16:13:32 - Cracking save there from the Saudi keeper.

16:12:55 -

16:10:57 Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, leans over Gianni Infantino, to shake the hand of Valdimir Putin..

"It's an oil deal they're doing - nothing to do with the football," remarks one British commentator...

16:09:58 - In the first ten minutes of the game, while we were still trying to iron out our liveblog teething problems, Russia scores a beauty.

16:08:35 - GOAL! Russia's number 11 floats in a beautiful cross to Gazinsky, who heads in a lovely finish

- The anthems have been sung, the office sweepstakes have been drawn... And we're off!

- Robbie Williams is on stage, inexplicably not singing any football songs... We're nearly near!