Boom and Gloom: Fallout from Day One of the World Cup
So, that’ll ease our appetite a bit. Our impatience for the World Cup to begin came to an end today, when Russia took home soil to host Saudi Arabia, and Vladimir Putting gave a speech, which spotkick cannot translate. Day One has come and gone, and the footprints dropped in the Mundial are already looking significant:
Good Day For…
Russia: Duh!! Going into the World Cup as the lowest-ranked team, winless since last October, and under pressure at home, Russia needed to get off to a good start against Saudi Arabia. A win was imperative, to get morale and get the fans onside. Surely scoring five without conceding was beyond their dreams. The quality of the opposition wasn’t that good, in truth, but this is the World Cup, as any slip up is bound to be costly, any opportunity must be cashed in on. This start doesn’t just get the fans buoyant and jubilant, the goal-margin also them looking intently at the next round already, a point in their second game, and goal difference might just be enough to swing them through to the last 16.
Denis Cheryshev: Copa Del Rey legend and Son of Rafa Benitez, Cheryshev missed out on the final list for the 2014 World Cup, and was injured for EURO 2016, so despite having started this World Cup on the bench, he’d have been glad to have been part of it anyway. The former Sevilla man certainly didn’t expect to get on so early, but after 22 minutes, Alan Dzagoev pulled what looked like his hamstring, prompting his arrival, and on the cusp of half-time, the substitute got on the score sheet. That was one of Cheryshev’s two strikes, the first brilliantly worked, the second expertly-placed, as he made he’d be remembered as the man who bagged an opening day brace, not forgotten as this World Cup’s second goal scorer. In tournaments like this, surely he’s cemented a starting place in Russia’s next game.
Aleksandr Golovin: On our list of 10 potential breakout stars in this World Cup, Golovin didn’t disappoint on opening day. His crosses for Russia’s first and third goals were inch-perfect, his free-kick to seal the win brilliant, and it was his industry and awareness that made the second goal. By World Cup standards, he may have already earned his move to a bigger club.
VAR: Yes, on the cliché that nl”o news is good news’. VAR wasn’t needed in this game, even though some of us were wary the first goal might have been chalked off. Speaking of…
Yuri Gazinsky: Joined the hall of Diop, Sampaio, Lahm, Tshabalala, etc. as the players who have bagged the first goal at a FIFA World Cup tournament. One for the quiz world in the year 2024.
Bad Day For…
Saudi Arabia: Dear oh dear, this was a horror show. Having watched Saudi Arabia in their World Cup warm-up games, I expected a bit more than losing by such a margin. The Saudis were great on the ball in their warm-up games, against Germany not least, rattling Die Mannschaft’s defence. They weren’t bad on the ball in this game either, it was their off-the-ball display that was the problem, especially with their defence, which had so much space, you could pay rent to use it. They face Uruguay next, and an attack of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and they could well be the first side to be eliminated. To think Shehu Idris tipped them as his surprise packages for the tournament.
Alan Dzagoev: Pulling up with what seemed like a hamstring strain after 22 minutes, Dzagoev will hope his injury isn’t as serious as it initially looked, or else his tournament lasted less than half an hour.
VAR: Wait, hang on. Sure, the technology wasn’t deployed in this game, but that means you should spare a thought for the three officials who dressed to go behind the VAR screen, doing just about nothing all-game. They’ll still get paid, right?