Host nation Russian Federation thrash Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener

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It's the first time Russian Federation is hosting the World Cup.

Dzagoev, who has spent his entire club career with CSKA Moscow, starred for Russian Federation at Euro 2012 with three goals, but missed Euro 2016 with a broken foot and also had to pull out of last summer's Confederations Cup with a hamstring injury.

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.

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. Three minutes before the first-half whistle, substitute Denis Cheryshev doubled the lead, becoming the first substitute in this World Cup to score a goal.

After Cheryshev's first goal, Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header from Golovin's cross.

Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, sitting next to Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, found himself looking over like "hey, what can you do?" "I am awed by their courage", he said in a statement.

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.

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The crowd were then treated to a fabulous finale as Cheryshev cleverly steered home the fourth with the outside of his foot before Golovin capped a great personal performance by curling his free kick beyond the wall to get the month-long Moscow party well and truly started.

Russian police briefly detained a British LGBT rights campaigner in central Moscow for what they said was an illegal protest on the first day of the World Cup soccer tournament.

The Saudis, who last won a match at the World Cup in 1994, failed to get a single shot on target.

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.

Western leaders are staying away, though the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron are likely to attend later matches if their teams progress, and protests and criticism - of conflict with Ukraine or human rights abuses in Russian Federation - have been largely confined to foreign soil.

Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi had earlier said that Saudi Arabia would play without fear on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia will take the field on Thursday as lengthy +800 underdogs.

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