Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia kick off the 2018 World Cup against Saudi Arabia looking for their first win at the summer finals since their opening match of the 2002 event, against Tunisia.

The omens have not been good in the build-up as Russia have failed to win in seven non-competitive attempts since beating South Korea in October.

The hosts are 70th in the FIFA world rankings, three places below their opponents, but are expected to win their first international meeting with the Middle Eastern country.

RUSSIA 1-0 SAUDI ARABIA - GAZINSKY (13)

Russia XI: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Dzagoev, Smolov.

Saudi Arabia XI: Al-Maiouf, Al-Breik, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani, Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Jassim, Al-Shehri, Al-Dawsari, Al-Sahlawi.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

RUSSIA 1-0 SAUDI ARABIA

25: You hate to see a hamstring ping but that’s what has just happened to Russia striker Alan Dzagoev. His tournament might be finished as Villarreal’s Denis Cheryshev replaces him.

24: Apparently assistant referees have been told to keep their flags down for tight offside calls in the World Cup, so VAR can make a decision. I reckon that’ll cause a few problems later in the tournament.

21: Close! Al-Shahrani leaves his marker for dead down the left flank before dropping a cross over to Al-Sahlawi, who nods wide under pressure.

18: This is a bit more like it from the visitors. They’ve managed to get their foot on the ball a little bit more with a few decent runs.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

15: Nearly a second. It’s was a silky move from the Russians down the right flank but Al-Breik bravely blocked. He was clattered by Smolov, but looks alright to continue.

RUSSIA 1-0 SAUDI ARABIA - GAZINSKY

12: We have lift off at the 2018 World Cup, and it’s the hosts who have taken the lead!

It’s a fairly routine opener with Yury Gazinsky climbing above his marker (not legally I might add) to thump home Aleksandr Golovin’s cross from the left flank.

9: It’s quite funny to see everyone in the office trying to figure out which players they have in their Fantasy Football sides. “Is he number 19? No, wait… 17. Is that him?” can be heard at Express HQ.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

6: Al-Muaiouf, the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper, scampers off his line to clear a weak backpass and manages to nick it away from the onrushing Smolov.

Mexican wave six minutes into the first game. That’s unacceptable in my book.

3: I’m really looking forward to spelling out all these names for you folks.

It’s been a typically scrappy start with both sides trying to shake off the nerves. Russia win a corner in the opening three minutes but Omar Hawsawi nods clear from Zhirkov’s delivery.

1: And we’re off at the 2018 World Cup. Any predictions? I’m feeling confident about seeing a few goals, so I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.

Obviously I’ll delete this when I’m wrong at full-time.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

‘FOOTBALL IS TRULY LOVED HERE’

15:55: "We are sincerely happy to host the World Cup in our country," says Russian president Vladimir Putin. "Football is truly loved here. Russia is an open, hospitable and friendly country. Whatever traditions we hold, football brings us together in one single team and we are united by our affection for this spectacular and vibrant game.

"I wish all the teams success and an unforgettable experience to fans. Welcome to Russia."

PUTIN ARRIVES

15:51: Robbie Williams and Vladimir Putin in the same arena? The testosterone levels inside the Luzhniki Stadium are reaching intolerable levels.

I’ll provide you with some quotes when the translator, who sounds suspiciously like Bain from Batman, finishes.

G-NEV IN THE HOUSE!

14:48: It’s quite nice to see Gary Neville providing analysis on ITV’s coverage this afternoon. He’s alongside Slaven Bilic, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon.

Bilic doesn’t sound too positive about the hosts’ chances. Nor would I considering their 38-year-old centre-back, who retired from international football, starts.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

CEREMONY OVER

14:45: OK, it’s safe to come out now. Robbie Williams has finished. He performed four songs but quite wisely chose NOT to include his controversial single 'Party Like a Russian.’

Russian harpist Alexander Boldachev joined Robbie and took centre-stage, with a large 'fire bird' entering the pitch carrying operatic performer Aida Garifullina.

She performed a duet of Williams' smash-hit 'Angels' with the Stoke-born singer, who also brought the ceremony to a close by singing 'Rock DJ'.

That’s enough about the music. Let’s get stuck into the action.

RAINBOW RUSSIANS

14:43: Now this is a good cause. Bookmakers Paddy Power are running a campaign called “From Russia To Equal Love.”

It basically means Paddy Power will be donating £10,000 to an LGBT+ charity for every time Russia score a goal.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Russia will hardly score.” Well that’s not a problem because their minimum donation will be £50,000. Top work!

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

TWITTER ROUND-UP

Chelsea: Genuinely think me and Julie are more excited about Robbie Williams performing than the actual first game.

Jon: Mock him all you want, but 10 mins of Russia vs Saudi Arabia and we'll be begging for a Robbie Williams interlude.

Tom: Just here for Robbie Williams missing the goal from six yards out with an oversized football.

Not sure why I included that first tweet. Who the hell is Julie?

OPENING CEREMONY

15:40: Here comes Robbie. The singer struts out in a snazzy red suit that he borrowed from Gary Barlow but never returned.

“Let me entertain you,” is the opening number. Not overly appropriate when the team ranked 70th in the world collides with the 67th.

Just need Diana Ross to come now and my afternoon will be complete.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

RUSSIA vs SAUDI ARABIA

15:35: Hosts Russia have selected stylish striker Fyodor Smolov to lead their attack as they seek to get the World Cup off to a celebratory start with a victory.

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 starts as the hosts look to snap a run of seven matches without success, stretching back to last October.

Saudi Arabia keep faith with the majority of the team that lost by a single goal to Germany in their final warmup in Leverkusen, making three changes to last Friday's starting lineup.

Playmaker Yahya Al-Shehri is expected to be key to Saudi Arabia's hopes of being able to dictate the pace of the game.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

15:30: As if watching Russia vs Saudi Arabia wasn’t bad enough, Robbie Williams will be performing at the opening ceremony in a few minutes.

If you would like to come back and join me again in 20 minutes once he’s finished, I’ll be alright with that.

RUSSIA vs SAUDI ARABIA

15:25: And here are your line-ups folks. Sorry it took so long, but you try writing out these names!

Russia XI: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Dzagoev, Smolov.

Saudi Arabia XI: Al-Maiouf, Al-Breik, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani, Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Jassim, Al-Shehri, Al-Dawsari, Al-Sahlawi.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

HAVE YOUR SAY

15:20: If you want to vent your frustrations, or discuss any issues in the world of football (within reason), then get in touch!

You can either comment at the bottom of the page or contact me via Twitter using the hashtag #ExpressSport.

DOBRO POZHALOVAT

15:15: For those not fluent or too lazy to Google it, dobro pozhalovat means welcome in Russian.

Don’t worry, I’ll be sprinkling in more of those extremely interesting facts throughout the 2018 World Cup.

Good reason to stay tuned, right?

Anyway, welcome to our LIVE coverage of the opening fixture of the tournament from the impressive Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

We’re kicking things off with the two weakest teams in the competition who boast no world stars, intrigue or chance of winning the trophy.

What a captivating introduction. Let’s have some teams, shall we?

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

Russia vs Saudi Arabia: Live World Cup score, goals and updates

RUSSIA

Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov

Star player: Igor Akinfeev

World Cup best: First round 1994, 2002, 2014 (Soviet Union finished fourth in 1966)

What are their chances?

They appear slim and the Moscow Times has said the team is 'Destined for defeat' highlighting the feeling surrounding the national side. Russia qualified automatically as hosts but have not won a match at a major finals since Euro 2012 and, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, have not progressed from the World Cup group stage.

SAUDI ARABIA

Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi

Star player: Fahad Al Muwallad

World Cup best: Second round 1994

What are their chances? Pizzi's side gave Germany a scare this month when they lost 2-1 to the defending champions and the manager has tasted international success having taken Chile to the Copa America title in 2016. Their squad is home-based, save for three players who spent time on the bench at LaLiga clubs last season, but could be a surprise package.

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