Cheryshev stars as Russian Federation rout Saudi Arabia in opener

Yury Gazinsky celebrates with his Russian teammates

Yury Gazinsky celebrates with his Russian teammates

'You know that we have very warm feelings for you, but I think you will understand that I can not wish success to your team, ' Putin told Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud on Thursday.

"We have to take all the criticism and turn it into something positive", Cherchesov said.

After an opening ceremony which included British pop icon Robbie Williams, it took just 12 minutes for the tournament's first goal, with Gazinsky opening his global account with a well-taken header across goal.

Russian Federation then almost grabbed a third when Abdullah Al-Muaiouf spilled a low drive from Roman Zobnin, the Saudi goalkeeper recovering just time in time to nudge the ball away from Smolov.

The crowd were then treated to a fabulous finale as Cheryshev cleverly rifled home an unstoppable curving fourth with the outside of his foot before Golovin capped a great personal performance by curling his free kick beyond the wall.

British pop star Robbie Williams performed at the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki, which will also host the final on July 15. But high points for Russian athletes have been rare since the country's image was tarnished by doping, with numerous Olympic medals stripped for drug use.

After the show, the tournament's trophy will be revealed by Brazil's two-time World Cup champion Ronaldo just before the official kick off of the opening match.

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With the five goals against the Saudis, a draw could be enough against either of its two remaining opponents.

The other two teams in Group A, Egypt and Uruguay, will play on Friday, along with the four teams in Group B - Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran.

Saudi Arabia recently lifted a ban on women driving, although that has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent.

That had an effect on Gazinsky's goal, which came after the Saudis struggled to clear a Russian corner, and the header from the tall and stocky Dzyuba.

However, there was a blow for Russian Federation mid-way through the first half as star playmaker Alan Dzagoev limped off.

Dzyuba had played only once for Russian Federation since 2016, while Cheryshev and Gazinsky made two appearances in that time.

Saudi Arabia sent some players to the Spanish league for experience this season but they didn't get much playing time while there. "The main victory is already won", it said, praising an organisational effort in which a dozen stadiums have been built or modernised and a huge security operation put in place.

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