Despite widespread pessimism across the nation, Russia opened the 2018 World Cup with a huge 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in front of a packed Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.
It was a significant win for the Russians, who boosted their chances of progressing to the round of 16 with the lopsided victory.
Here are some winners and losers from the tournament’s opening game.
The Russian attack was unstoppable and Aleksandr Golovin was the main reason.
The 22-year-old attacker scored a delightful free kick and contributed two assists with a pair of wonderful crosses from either flank. Golovin was especially dominant on the left wing in the opening 25 minutes, as he consistently exploited the acres of open space behind the Saudi fullbacks.
— Mundo Hinchadas (@MundoHincha) June 14, 2018
However, when Alan Dzagoev exited with an injury, substitute Denis Cheryshev moved to the left and Golovin occupied the No. 10 role. That tactical switch gave him even more creative freedom.
Most impressively, Golovin was astute defensively. He tracked back to create two compact lines to restrict space, completing four tackles and three interceptions in the process.
Aleksandr Golovin (22) vs Saudi Arabia.
Key Passes: 5
Duels (won): 21 (7)
Dribbled past: 2
Accurate passes: 25 (71.4%)
Man of the match:
Ladies and Gentlemen Aleksandr Golovin. pic.twitter.com/MrZ1JsUjSv
— SidelineScouted (@SidelineScouted) June 14, 2018
The Russian pressing
That defensive commitment from the attackers exemplified Russia’s tactical game plan. One of the team’s supposed weaknesses entering the World Cup was its defence due to rampant injuries. The centre-back depth was so thin that 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich had to come out of international retirement.
However, thanks to the Russian’s pressing from the midfield and forwards, Ignashevich and Ilya Kutepov – who only has eight caps for Russia – were barely tested.
Saudi Arabia only completed 73 per …read more