Russia gets the 2018 World Cup underway, and its opening draw is a kindly one: the long shots Saudi Arabia.
• Refresh here for live updates and analysis from the 2018 World Cup opener in Russia.
How to watch: In the United States, Fox and Telemundo have the broadcast at 11 a.m. Eastern, but you can stream it here.
• Need some help? Here’s a breakdown of all 32 teams
Halftime: Russia Leads Comfortably
A dominating performance by Russia, which comfortably leads by 2-0 at halftime. Remember when Saudi Arabia was 40-to-1 to win the game? Now they are 250-1. Even a draw is a real longshot here.
43’: GOAL. Russia leads 2-0.
It was bound to happen. Russia advanced into Saudi space with numbers, Denis Cheryshev got by the defense and had the keeper at his mercy. What a half hour for Cheryshev. Sitting on the bench, suddenly thrust into the game by an injury, and now on the World Cup scoreboard.
Andrew Das: Two minutes later, Cheryshev tried that same cutback move he used to score the goal, but he seemed surprised that it had worked and flubbed the chance. This time he let two Saudis slide by and buried the chance.
36’: Saudi Arabia Exposed at the Back
Saudi Arabia, like most underdogs, probably expected to counterattack in this game. But the early Russia goal took away that opportunity. Saudi Arabia has been forced to be aggressive, and it has been Russia that has counterattacked. As a result, Saudi Arabia has looked very exposed at the back.
30’: Saudi Arabia Finally Gets a Shot — and Misses
After a theatrical fall, Saudi Arabia was awarded a free kick from just outside the box. For the first time, Russia fans must sit up a little straighter. Salman Al Faraj did manage to get it on a teammate’s head, but the resulting shot is nowhere near goal.
24’: Russia Loses Alan Dzagoev
Alan Dzagoev, who was a part of a number of Russia’s moves, pulls up with an apparent hamstring injury. Russia was forced into an early substitution: Denis Cheryshev checked in.
Rory Smith: That’s a significant moment for Russia: not in this game, necessarily, but for the country’s hopes of qualifying from the group stage and continuing its World Cup into the latter stages (a weird thing to say 20 minutes into the first game, but hear me out). Alan Dzagoev is — along with Aleksandr Golovin — one of possibly only two genuinely creative players Russia has. He’s always struggled with injury, but this is terrible timing for him, of course, and for his country. Losing him to what looked an awful lot like a popped hamstring may not affect the result today all that much, but he would have been important for Russia against Egypt and Uruguay, too. There’s now a risk he won’t be available for either.
20’: Saudis Struggling for Control
The Saudis finally got a run of possession together, but it was by their defenders deep in their own territory, while Russia sat back, understandably, with a 1-0 lead. Think a comeback is in the offing? Saudi Arabia is 40-1 to win this match right now.
15’: Russia Keeps Pressing
Almost two for Russia. Saudi keeper Al-Mayouf made a desperate lunge and fisted a ball away. 2-0 looks a lot more likely than 1-1 right now.
12’: GOAL! Russia Scores First World Cup Goal
Russia is ahead! Saudi players scampered back in some disarray (again). The ball pinged around the box, Roman Zobnin crossed right into the danger zone and Yury Gazinsky hammered it home with his head. So easy for Russia.
Andrew Das: In the rare moments when the Saudis have had the ball, they’ve shown they are pretty sharp with that one-touch passing in small spaces that comes from years of rondos, that soccer training game where a circle of players try to play keepaway from a couple of opponents in the middle.
But rondos are an effort to keep the ball inside the circle. They never really go anywhere. And neither are the Saudis.
7’: Russia Plays Aggressor
Dzagoev and Zobnin have been getting a lot of space down the wings for Russia. So far they have not been able to get it into the box effectively, but Russia is definitely on the front foot so far.
Rory Smith: Hopefully, that goal settles Russia down – and the early signs are that there’s now a bit of confidence about the host – but the pace of the start stays high.
3’: Saudi Arabia in Trouble Early
The first corner of the game went to Russia, and Saudi Arabia’s defensive anchor Osama Hawsawi was forced to clear it off the line. A dangerous situation for Saudi Arabia right away.
0’: Saudi Arabia in Green, Russia in Red
We’re under way in Moscow! Saudi Arabia kicks off wearing green, while Russia is in red.
Vladimir Putin Opens the World Cup
Vladimir Putin gave a speech in Russian welcoming the crowd and opening up the World Cup. There is always a surge of excitement around the world for the first game of the Cup, although that is tempered a bit this year because the match happens to be between the 67th and 70th ranked teams. As usual, the new World Cup brings a new FIFA ball: This year’s is white with gray pixilated hexagons.
Opening Ceremony: Robbie Williams Takes the Stage
The crowd in Moscow was treated to an opening ceremony featuring English popstar Robbie Williams, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and the usual array of gaudily-dressed extras forming letters and patterns on the field. They cruised through some of Williams’s greatest hits, including “Let Me Entertain You” and “Angels.” Ronaldo, the former Brazilian star was also on hand, but did not get an opportunity to sing.
Here Is the Russia Lineup
• A lot of people were expecting Russia’s midfield twins, Aleksei and Anton Miranchuk, to be a key part of the team. But they aren’t in the announced starting lineup. Russia has the luxury of a fairly deep midfield, by far its best area. As for the Saudi team strength … it’s not clear there is one.
Here Is the Saudi Arabia Lineup