MOSCOW: Russia’s Yury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday (Jun 14) as the host nation took a 1-0 lead against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the tournament.
Gazinsky headed into the net in the 12th minute at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, sparking scenes of delight from the home crowd.
Hosts Russia picked stylish striker Fyodor Smolov to lead their attack in Thursday’s opening game.
The 28-year-old is considered key to Russia’s chances of advancing past the group stage, but he has not scored for his country since the 3-1 loss to France in March.
Sergei Ignashevich, Russia’s 38-year-old defender who recently came out of retirement, also started as the hosts looked to snap a run of seven matches without success, stretching back to last October.
Saudi Arabia kept faith with the majority of the team that lost by a single goal to Germany in their final warm-up in Leverkusen, making three changes to last Friday’s starting lineup.
Playmaker Yahya Al-Shehri was expected to be key to Saudi Arabia’s hopes of being able to dictate the pace of the game.