World Cupdate: Russia Strikes First

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via @FIFAWorldCup

Welcome to your daily 2018 FIFA World Cup update, or World Cupdate, where we recap the past day’s proceedings from Russia while previewing what is still to come. These features will run every morning throughout the duration of the tournament and feature highlights, major news, and much more from Russia.


Here’s What Happened: Thursday, June 14

Coming into the 2018 World Cup, a host nation never lost their first game of the tournament in which they were hosting. In 21 tries, host nations either won or drew their opening match all 21 times. That trend continued on Thursday following home side Russia’s 5-0 rout of Saudi Arabia in the kick-off match of the 2018 World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

After a rousing opening ceremony that featured an abundance of entertainers from Russia and the rest of the world, both teams took the pitch for the inaugural match of the 2018 World Cup.

Based on the latest FIFA World Rankings, this match was set up to a meeting between the two lowest ranked teams playing in the tournament. Russia entered their host tournament ranked No. 70 in the world while Saudi Arabia sat only slightly higher at No. 67. No one would have been shocked if this match turned out to be a snoozer to kick-ogg the World Cup. Instead, Russia put on a show for their home fans in a 5-0 blitzing of a severely overmatched Saudi Arabia side.

It all started in the 12th minute off a header from Yury Gazinski that beat the Saudi goalkeeper to the far post. An already boisterous crowd went into over drive with the hosts up 1-0 early.

That euphoric high was short lived for the Russians when less than 10 minutes later, star Alan Dzagoev was forced off with an injury. He was replaced by Denis Cheryshev and the substitute did his best to take fans minds off the ailing Dzagoev.

On the stroke of haltime, Cheryshev received a pass in the box and with a great first touch worked past two Saudi defenders. With a clear shot on net, Cheryshev buried a shot into the top corner to send the home side into the half up 2-0 and the crowd back into a state of pandemonium.

Coming out of halftime the game began to settle down but Russia remained firmly in control. Saudi Arabia created one mildly threatening attack but it amounted to only a goal kick.

Russia all but sealed the opening match win in the 71st minute on a beautiful headed goal from 6’5″ midfielder Artem Dzyuba that pushed the lead to 3-0 in favor of the hosts.

With all three points in the bag, the only matter of business left to attend to was determining the “Man of the Match” award. First half substitute Cheryshev made that decision much easier for the media voters with an early contender for goal of the tournament.

The 78,000 fans in attendance were rocking as their home nation soared to a 4-0 lead and saw Cheryshev become a national hero in front of their eyes.

Adding insult to injury, Russia scored a fifth goal in the dying seconds off a free kick from Aleksandr Golovin.

Moments later the final whistle sounded and Russia opened their hosting World Cup campaign with a dominating 5-0 victory.

Here are the full match highlights:

This match will go down as one of the greatest in the history of Russian soccer and deservedly so. They were the better side from the opening whistle to the last and earned every bit of that 5-0 win. Fans from around the country will remember this day for years to come.

That said, it is unknown at this time what this match will mean in the big picture. Russia could not have asked for a better opening to their tournament but Saudi Arabia entered the tournament as the second lowest ranked team and had very little hope of progressing. That mountain became even steepers for the Saudis after Thursday’s debacle.

None of that should dampen the spirits of the Russian team or its fans following a performance like that on the world’s biggest stage. If the hosts are to advance to the knockout rounds this game was a must win and they did just that. As an added bonus, they also scored a big advantage in the goal differential department which serves as a tiebreaker in group play. Getting a result against Uruguay or Egypt will not be an easy task, but the host nation put themselves in good position after their opening match.


Group Update

Only one game on Thursday means there is not much to update here but Group A does have a slightly different look with Russia’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

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Here’s What’s Next: Friday, June 15

Friday marks the first full day of play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with three games on the schedule with the remaining two sides of Group A in action and all four squads in Group B beginning their tournament.

Egypt v. Uruguay (Group A)

  • Time:Β 8:00 AM
  • Location:Β Ekaterinburg Arena (Yekaterinburg)
  • How to Watch:Β FS1

The other two teams in Group A will try and keep pace with Russia in their first match of the 2018 World Cup. Egypt and Uruguay entered Russia with hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds so this will be an important match for both sides. This will be Egypt’s first World Cup match in 28 years and all eyes will be on Mo Salah to see if he plays following a shoulder injury.

Morocco v. Iran (Group B)

  • Time:Β 11:00 AM
  • Location:Β Saint Petersburg Stadium (St. Petersburg)
  • How to Watch:Β FOX

Group B opens play with two heavy favorites but neither taking part in this match. Morocco will be dealing with the disappointment of missing out on hosting the 2026 World Cup while Iran will be playing through a shoe issue after government regulations prevented Nike from providing them boots for the tournament. If either side has dreams of the knockout rounds, walking away with all three points will be critical.

Portugal v. Spain (Group B)

  • Time:Β 2:00 PM
  • Location:Β Fisht Stadium (Sochi)
  • How to Watch:Β FOX

Perhaps the most highly anticipated match of the group stage portion of the 2018 World Cup. Both Portugal and Spain are favored to advance to the knockout rounds out of Group B so this match could determine who wins the group and who settles for second. Spain fired their manager on Wednesday and it remains to be seen what effect that has on their team. At 33 years of age, this could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last shot at World Cup glory.

You can watch all these games live on the channels listed or streaming online at FoxSports.com with a cable sign in.

If highlights are more your style, check out @FOXSoccer on Twitter where goals and game recaps are posted throughout the day.

All game times are listed in Eastern Standard Time.


Golden Boot Standings

The Golden Boot Award goes to the stop goal scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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via beIN Sports

Keep up to date on everything World Cup right here on “The Bat Flip” where we will be posting our daily World Cupdate to recap what went on and preview what’s still to come in Russia.

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