Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the World Cup on Thursday at a ceremony in Moscow’s 80,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium.
Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov has called for calm following his team’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in their opening World Cup Group A match.
Saudi Arabia sent some players to the Spanish league for experience this season but they didn’t get much playing time while there.
Having more teams there can only be a good thing, allowing more people to fall in love with the attractive game looking its best.
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.
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.
And the Saudi goalkeeper was beaten again in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Golovin adding to his two assists with a curling free-kick that left brought the home fans to their feet once again.
English singer Robbie Williams (C) performs during the Opening Ceremony.
“There are no words to express what I’m feeling right now. So we’re on the right track but we should turn the page and forget this game”.
The buildup to the tournament has been dogged by controversy and diplomatic scandals and has shone a light on the challenges facing the country.
“This is really cool”, Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who was released from jail earlier in the day, wrote on social media. “Still, I don’t want to skip the matches of my favorite teams – Spain and Germany”.
Only this month British lawmakers warned England fans visiting Russian Federation that they were at serious risk of homophobic, racist and anti-British attacks and hours before the opening match began a UK-based gay rights activist was briefly detained by police. He said he is still unsure whether star forward Mohamed Salah will play as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
The money lavished on the tournament will boost Putin’s already sky-high prestige at home by giving numerous 11 host cities their first facelifts in generations.
Sports – and particularly football – are getting more and more expensive, with hundreds of millions of euros or dollars paid for players, stadiums or tournaments.