As it happened: Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0

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Updated 14 June 2018

As it happened: Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0

  • Russia take the lead after 12 minutes through Gazinsky
  • Cheryshev makes it two just before half-time, Artem Dzyuba nets a third and then Cheryshev nets a brilliant fourth late on

FULL-TIME: Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0. That's the second worst defeat in finals history for Saudi Arabia, second only to the 8-0 hammering they received at the hands of Germany in 2002.

7.55PM: GOAL! Russia score a fifth through Aleksandr Golovin. That's just cruel on the Green Falcons. Pizzi's side haven't played well. but they were not five goals worse than the hosts.

7.51PM: GOAL! Cheryshev rubs salt into Saudi Arabia's wounds with a fourth late on. This has been a horrible opening night for the Green Falcons

7.40PM: Former England striker Dion Dublin: "If this was a five-a-side World Cup tournament, I think Saudi Arabia would do very well, and might even win it. But you cannot play 5-a-side on a full-size pitch."

7.39PM: Russia's Denis Cheryshev was the first ever substitute to score in the opening match of a World Cup. Artem Dzyuba is the second.

7.38PM: Saudi Arabia have actually enjoyed the lion's share of possession, seeing 60 per cent of the ball but they've clearly not been as penetrative as the hosts.

7.37PM: "Saudi Arabi played so pretty strong opposition in the build up to the World Cup but they've been very poor tonight," said former England manager Glenn Hoddle.

7.31PM: GOAL! And game over. Artem Dzyuba scores less than two minutes after coming on with his first touch. That's game, set and match for Russia. 

7.23PM: Saudi Arabia coach has made his move with just under a third of the match remaining, removing defensive midfielder Abdullah Otayf and replacing him with strike weapon Fahad Muwallad.


7.19PM: "I just don't think Saudi Arabia have the ability. If they are playing like this against a Russia side that has been criticised in the build-up to the match, then they are going to struggle in this tournament," said former England captain Alan Shearer. "They are just not used to playing at this level with this intensity, and against this physicality."

7.05PM: And we're back underway at the Luzhniki Stadium. Can Saudi Arabia pull a rabbit out of the hat and get back into this one?

7PM: Pizzi will surely look to change things in the second half. On the bench he has Mohamed Kanno, who scored in the friendly win over Greece, and also Fahad Muwallad, who got the equaliser against Ukraine in March.

6.58PM: Saudi Arabia did not have a single shot on goal in the first half while lone striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi only enjoyed seven touches – and two of those were from kick-off.

6.54PM: "Saudi Arabia are all at sea when Russia counterattack," says former England defender Gary Neville in his role as a pundit for English TV.

6.52PM: Former England captain Alan Shearer fears for the Green Falcons in the second half. "Every opportunity Russia have to hit them on the break, they are far too quick for Saudi Arabia, and they can go and get four or five goals if they want to," he told BBC Sport.

HT: Russia 2 Saudi Arabia 0. Juan Antonio Pizzi will have to give the half-time talk of his coaching career after the Green Falcons gave themselves a mountain to climb.

6.43PM: GOAL! If Saudi Arabia are to win their opening game they are going to have to do it the hard way after Denis Cheryshev makes it two just before half-time. It's a dream 45 minutes for the hosts and the worst possible one for the Green Falcons.

6.42PM: Here's a good stat for you: 39 percent of all goals Saudi Arabia have conceded in World Cup history have been headers.

6.41PM: BBC Sport pundit Jermain Jenas: "That is three or four times Saudi Arabia have been caught two v two or three v three. It is schoolboy stuff from Saudi Arabia."

6.37PM: Saudi Arabia's forward Salem Al-Dawsari vies for possesion with Russia's midfielder Roman Zobnin.

6.32PM: Saudi Arabia have only scored nine goals in 13 games at the World Cup finals and they are going to need to score at least one here to get something out of their opening Group A game.


6.22PM: Glenn Hoddle: "Saudi Arabia just can't get a foothold in this game right now."

6.12PM: GOAL! Russia draw first blood, taking the lead through Iury Gazinsky. It's quite the time for the Russian to score his first goal for his country.



6.09PM: "Al-Sahlawi has started really well," says former England midfielder Glenn Hoddle. "He's playing like a left winger."

A display of unity from Saudi Arabia pre kick-off.
A display of unity from Saudi Arabia before kick-off

6.05PM: Salem Al-Dawsari will be such a key player for Saudi Arabia tonight. The attacking midfielder played against Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga last month and scored for his country against Greece.

6.01PM: And we're underway. The first of the 64 games at the 21st World Cup kicks off after the first blast of the whistle of Argentine referee Nestor Pitana.

6PM: No player from either side plays their football outside their home country, with Saudi Arabia fielding seven players from champions Al-Hilal

5.57PM: A reminder of that goal by Al-Owairan.


5.51PM: A reminder that Saudi Arabia are chasing only their third ever win at the finals. Their last victory came in 1994 when they beat Belgium thanks to that goal from Saeed Al-Owairan.

5.47PM: Fahad Muwallad was pushing hard for a start but he has to be content with a place on the bench. Expect Pizzi to call on the Al-Ittihad forward as the game opens up. 

5.41PM: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has decided to go with Mohammed Al-Sahlawi as the lone striker despite going eight games without a goal. He scored 16 goals in qualifying but eight of those game against whipping boys East Timor.

5.10 PM: The team lineups are out...

Igor Akinfeev (capt), Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kupetov, Sergey Ignashevich, Iury Gazinsky, Alan Dzagoev, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Golovin, Yury Zhirkov, Alexander Samedov, Fedor Smolov
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov (RUS)

Abdullah Al-Muaiouf, Osama Hawsawi (capt), Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Salman Al-Faraj, Yahia Al-Shehri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassam, Salem Al-Dawsari, Mohammed Al-Sahlawi


5.00PM MOSCOW: So the big kick-off is less than an hour away.
The Green Falcons are set to get their World Cup campaign under way against hosts Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The eyes of the world are on Juan Antonio Pizzi’s players as they seek to cause a shock and get their quest to make the knockout stages for the first time since 1994 off to a great start.
Outside the stadium Arab News reporter Gary Meenaghan met lots of Saudi Arabia fans excited about the clash, one that could determine whether the side makes it through Group A.

This is Saudi Arabia's fifth appearance at the World Cup finals and their first since 2006. The high point was a run to the last 16 in 1994 which was achieved on the back of group wins over Morocco and Belgium, the Green Falcons' only wins at the finals in 13 matches. 

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Moscow on Thursday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup.

The crown prince was greeted at the airport by the Russian FIFA World Cup mascot where he signed a commemorative ball. Putin told the crown prince at their meeting in Moscow that he was happy to see him at the opening of the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018

Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.