Saudi Crown Prince leaves for Russian Federation to attend World Cup opening

The world is holding its breath – in just a couple of hours the 2018 FIFA World Cup will get underway with hosts Russia facing Saudi Arabia in the opening game at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. This year’s month-long soccer competition will feature

Saudi Crown Prince leaves for Russian Federation to attend World Cup opening

Russia's midfielder Denis Cheryshev (centre) scores a goal past Saudi Arabia's goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in the opening match of the 2018 Fifa World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018.

Inspired by the home crowd in the opening match of the World Cup, Russia ended a 16-year wait for victory.

Putin, grappling with Western sanctions since seizing Crimea from Ukraine four years ago, will attend an opening ceremony at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium ahead of the first match of the month-long festival, pitting the hosts against Saudi Arabia.

Russian Federation next play Egypt on June 19 in Saint Petersburg and finish off Group A against two-time World Cup winners Uruguay in Samara on June 25.

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On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a tense exchange with a reporter over the issue. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the matter publicly by name.

Putin smiled several times as he watched the game in a VIP box with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Another substitute, Artem Dzyuba, made it 3-0 with about 20 minutes remaining, putting the game out of Saudi Arabia's reach. Golovin added the fifth from a free kick.

British pop singer Robbie Williams also played it safe in the opening concert.

Juan Antonio Pizzi's men struggled to create a chance of note, failed to record a shot on target and gave away possession on countless occasions, enabling Russian Federation to record their first World Cup win since 2002. You of course get all the "official" news, line-ups for every match, a live blog so you can follow a play-by-play if you're not watching the actual match, watch video highlights afterwards, and learn more about the teams and each of the players.

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Neither team has much of a shot at going far in the tournament, but in a weak group, starting with three points could be crucial. "Both bids were of a very high quality and we welcome the fact that the bidding process was both open and transparent".

Russian Federation can now prepare to face Egypt next week full of confidence while Saudi Arabia need to find instant improvement if they are to avoid further embarrassment against Uruguay.

Given the concern prior to the tournament about the quality of the Russian team, ranked 70th in the world by Federation Internationale de Football Association, the result came as something of a relief. Egypt and Uruguay played overnight in Yekaterinburg.

Russia's players were significantly taller and heavier than the Saudis, a help when challenging for the ball and when the penalty area was crowded.

Cheryshev is one of only two members of Stanislav Cherchesov's squad to play outside of Russian Federation and he has spent most of his life in Spain, moving to the Iberian peninsular when his father Dmitri signed for Sporting Gijon in 1996.

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"We went for a walk before the game and we talked about how this tournament is just beginning".

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