3 Star performers from Russia vs. Saudi Arabia
Russia opened the 2018 FIFA World Cup in style by dismantling Saudi Arabia 5-0 at home. The match went from a nervy end-to-end opening to a one-sided blow out towards the end of the game. Russia performed well considering their poor form and the pressure they were under but Saudi Arabia were especially poor and come out of the game with very few positives. Here is who I felt stood out in the 5-0 drubbing...
- Yasser Al-Shahrani
Al-shahrani was seemingly the only player for Saudi Arabia who wasn't overawed by the occasion. While the rest of his team were make sloppy touches and gifting away the ball, he looked determined to shine in such a high profile game. The left back for Saudi Arabia played like a left winger for much of the game as he regularly bombed down the flank looking to create something for his time. His passing was inventive, his runs were positive and he created a great chance with his cross from the left side in the first half that could have drastically swung the game's momentum. While Saudi Arabia's tournament is likely already over, more quality performances like this from Al-Shahrani will do his own stock no harm at all.
2. Fedor Smolov
While the striker didn't end up with any of his team's 5 goals to his name, the Russian turned in a very solid performance. His passing and link up play was crucial to his teams success in a game where creativity in the final third is essentially what determined the outcome. While he might be disappointed he didn't grab himself a goal, it doesn't seem as though his team is lacking in that department and as long he can continue to help out his side in other ares I'm sure his manager will be very happy.
- Denis Cheryshev
While it was very upsetting to see Alan Dzagoev go down with a hamstring injury that might end his tournament midway through the first half, this development did provide an opportunity for Cheryshev to shine. Coming on as Dzagoev's replacement, Cheryshev scored two sensational goals that sealed victory for his side. His first came after he deftly lifted the ball over a sliding defender before blasting the ball into the back of the net to double his nations side right before half time and really take the game away from Saudi Arabia. His second was a sensational outside-of-the-boot effort that turned a convincing Russia lead into an out-and-out goalfest. Cheryshev will likely get more chances to show what he can do following his performance and Dzagoev's injury and if he can continue to fire in goals like today, who knows how high Russia can climb in their group.
Next up for Russia will be Mo Salah's Egypt in a likely qulaification decider whereas poor old Saudi Arabia will be faced with rebounding from this performance against the far superior Uruguay side.