After a largely underwhelming opening ceremony that was mercifully short, we got right on with the football and host nation Russia got the home fans celebrating with an impressive 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, the biggest opening game win of the tournament since Italy thrashing USA 7-1 to kick off the 1934 World Cup.
The Russians weathered some early pressure and preyed on some turnover-prone football from the Saudi side that will be disappointed overall with how they defended. Denys Cheryshev, who was introduced early on after key man Alan Dzagoev pulled up with a hamstring injury, made the most of his opportunity scoring twice with both goals coming from excellent left-footed finishes. Young midfielder Aleksandr Golovin also caught the eye as the midfield dynamo, laying on a couple of assists and finishing the rout with an excellent free kick.
xG map for Russia - KSA. On the one hand, it's true you usually don't finish all of your clear chances in front of goal. On the other hand, woof the model doesn't know how bad KSA's defense and keeper are. pic.twitter.com/zI5gU8xcSx— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) June 14, 2018
In the second game of Group A action, Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah was on the bench as Egypt took on Uruguay. The Pharaohs were impressive with their defensive solidity, frustrating the star duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez time and again.
Suarez particularly was guilty of three egregious misses from positions where a striker of his quality should and has scored time and again. However, as the game went on and Egypt looked more likely to win than Uruguay, the African side lost their composure giving away freekicks in dangerous areas.
Cavani thumped a shot off the post and somehow the rebound pingponged off a throng of white shirts in the box and was cleared away. But with just a couple of minutes to play, another needlessly conceded freekick resulted in a wonderful cross for defender Jose Gimenez to head home and steal a win.
xG map for Egypt - Uruguay. Took at last minute header from a corner to win it but Uruguay had created several good chances before the breakthrough. And by "Uruguay" of course I mean "Cavani". pic.twitter.com/KUGYJ6vsdA— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) June 15, 2018
After the first matchday in Group A, this is what the table looks like.