World Cup 2018: What we learned from day one – Russia aren't rubbish after all, especially Aleksandr Golovin, but an opening ceremony featuring Robbie Williams is

Frank Dalleres
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Russia defied pre-tournament expectations with a five-goal win (Source: Getty)

The big question posed by Russia’s 5-0 spanking of Saudi Arabia was: had the hosts’ pre-World Cup problems been exaggerated or are the Saudis just terrible?

Russia entered the tournament as its lowest ranked team, with their ageing squad helmed by under-fire coach Stanislav Cherchesov tipped to struggle to get out of Group A, yet they recorded the biggest win by a host nation in an opening fixture since 1934.

We won’t know until they face Uruguay and Egypt, who meet today in a match that has taken on greater significance.

Golovin and Cheryshev steal the show

Stars are made and lucrative transfers conceived at major tournaments, and Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev made early bids to be the faces of Russia 2018 against Saudi Arabia.

An early injury to Alan Dzagoev thrust Golovin into a more central role and the CSKA Moscow playmaker flourished, capping an influential performance with a fine free-kick.

Russia v Saudi Arabia: Group A - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Cheryshev's second goal – Russia's fourth – was the pick of the bunch (Source: Getty)

The pick of the strikes, however, was Cheryshev’s second: an outside-of-the-left-boot effort that sailed over unfortunate Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf and dipped under the crossbar.

Greying Robbie 'shines' in budget ceremony

Perhaps it was the cost of employing 5,000 security staff to police the first game, but there was a distinctly low-budget feel to the World Cup opening ceremony.

Russia v Saudi Arabia: Group A - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Williams sang three songs in a low-key curtain-raiser (Source: Getty)

Robbie Williams was lured out of the celebrity wilderness to don a red leopard-print suit and croon three songs while an array of backing dancers sported similarly subtle garb, wearing footballs as hats and skirts just in case spectators had forgotten the occasion.

“And do they know/The places where we go/When we’re grey and old,” Robbie sang in Angels. If they didn’t, they do now.

Read more: How we grew to like England again under Gareth Southgat

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