World Cup kicks off in Russia

President Kagame and his Russian counterpart held talks in Moscow

The 27-year-old is among Russia's top players with nine goals in 58 appearances, but fans will be encouraged by the performance of his replacement, Denis Cheryshev, who scored twice against Saudi Arabia.

Warm-up losses to Italy, Germany and Peru have not made for the best preparations for the Saudis as they chase a first victory in the World Cup finals since 1994 in their first appearance in the showpiece event since 2006.

Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov said he received a congratulatory call from President Vladimir Putin after the World Cup hosts pummelled Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the tournament's opening match on Thursday.

Morocco vs. Iran isn't much more attractive than Russian Federation vs. Saudi Arabia.

Russia's fans will not care about that after enduring a wretched run of seven games without a win but they will be aware that the Asian qualifiers look desperately ill-equipped to trouble Egypt or group favourites Uruguay, who meet tomorrow, and that there is still much to be done for the hosts to secure progress to the knockout stage.

Don't miss a moment of the World Cup!

It was a goal that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, seated alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino, and shake his hand.

Luzhniki exploded into raptures after only 12 minutes when Yury Gazinsky headed home for the opener.

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Cheryshev chipped the ball over two Saudi defenders in the 43rd minute and shot over goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf's right side.

Russian Federation made it 3-0 in the 71st minute when Golovin chipped in a cross for giant striker Dzyuba to rise and head in from close range.

In a departure from what has become the norm for opening ceremonies, this year's inauguration was shorter and less flamboyant than what many would have expected, lasting some 30 minutes and featuring British pop star Robbie Williams as the celebration's highlight.

Egypt and Uruguay are due to play the second Group A match in Yekaterinburg on Friday.

Saudi Arabia's route to the knockout round is much more hard. From then on, things continued to go well for the Russians as the Saudis struggled to stay in the game.

Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov insisted that Thursday's opening festivities would wake the country up: "Half of Russian Federation will only realise that the World Cup is happening when the whistle blows for kick-off".

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

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