Five talking points on Russia’s stellar performance in World Cup opener

Russia vs Saudi Arabia World Cup

By Jaimer Dela Cruz

Continuing the tradition in the world cup, tournament hosts Russia didn’t to disappoint their fans in their opening clash against Saudi Arabia. We look at the five talking points in their dominance over the Green Falcons.

As it played out, Russia didn’t break the tradition by winning over Saudi in their opening match in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Scores from Yuri Gazinskiy, Denis Cheryshev, Aleksandr Golovin and Artem Dzyuba and put the hosts in a commanding position.

Aerial Supremacy

Russia capitalised on the height advantage that they have over Saudi Arabia as two of their goals came from headers of Gazinskiy and Dzyuba. No doubt when the ball is in the air, the Russians will be up there first before the Green Falcons. Not only do they have a big starting lineup, they infused a taller Dzyuba on the 70th minute who immediately made an impact by scoring a goal after just a minute of coming in. Saudi never had the ability to match them whenever the ball flies into the box.

Proper Use of Possession

The possession of the ball between the two has been night and day as Saudi had a possession rate of 61% while Russia only held the ball 39% of the time but whenever they have the ball, they make the most out of it. On the 43rd minute, they had a short spell of the ball where they managed to put the ball from back to front before Roman Zobnin passed the ball to Cheryshev who then wittingly dribbled past two defenders before slotting the ball in.

Counter-attacking Prowess

Retaining less of the ball might be difficult but the bright side behind that is you have a better chance of catching them on the break and surprising them upfront. This has been the story for Russia in this five-nil victory over Saudi.

Every time the Green Falcons have the ball, at least two defenders traps the man with the ball and immediately dispossessing him. Once they got the ball, you can see at least four players running on the break to anticipate a long pass to them.

Cheryshey’s second goal in the match has been a result of a counter attack as they intercepted the ball in their the green falcons’ own half before he curled the ball at the top right of the post.

Exploiting the Faults in the Defense

Having less time on the ball means an opening in the defense for the possessive team. Saudi Arabia passed the ball around getting everyone involved including the defense. This might be a good thing to do if you’re leading two goals over the opposition or if you really want to open up your opponent’s defense.

Everytime the ball gets upfront, the Russians intercept the ball leaving the midfield open for runners on the counter. Once the ball reaches the midfield, they don’t approach straight through but rather spreads the ball out wide.

On the first goal they scored, a corner kick was played inside the box but was headed out by the defence. Rather than cutting into the box, Golovin decided to swing a cross inside the box where he freed up Gazinskiy who then soared above the defence.

Massive Pressure from a Massive Support

Playing the opening game in Moscow, it is expected that the pressure applied on the national team will be heavier at the start compared to their next succeeding games. You always want to start your campaign on a high and surely, they didn’t disappoint.

As the locals wished for a five-nil win over the Arabs, Russia didn’t fail to deliver as they provided all the five goals their nation has been hoping for in their opening match.

Seeing the flag of the nation flying around the stadium will always be one of the proudest moments for the fans, let alone seeing it waved inside the stadium in their nation.

Now that they have shown their might, the pressure on them will just continue to grow put alongside the pressure comes the support of a nation wanting to rise to the occasion and overcome all adversities.