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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

World Cup 2018 live blog Day 1 as it happened: Russia win and Salah boosts Egypt

The opening day of the 2018 World Cup in Russia saw the host nation win the tournament opener against Saudi Arabia 5-0

Russia's Yury Gazinsky celebrates scoring their first goal of the World Cup against Saudi Arabia. Carl Recine / Reuters
Russia's Yury Gazinsky celebrates scoring their first goal of the World Cup against Saudi Arabia. Carl Recine / Reuters

10.15pm Close of play on Day 1

So, that is it. Angry words from Spain's former manager finish up the opening day of action in Russia.

A great day for the host nation, who were 5-0 victors over Saudi Arabia in the tournament's opening game.

Also a very good day for Egypt as Mohamed Salah seems set to play a significant part in Friday's match with Uruguay.

Plenty to look forward to on Friday's second day.

It is Egypt v Uruguay at 4pm in the second Group A match. Then in Group B it is Morocco v Iran at 7pm and Spain v Portugal at 10pm. All kick-off times are in UAE.

See you on Friday morning.

9.56pm: Lopetegui - 'saddest day since death of my mother'

Julen Lopetegui said on Thursday that the day that he was sacked as Spain manager was the "saddest" since the death of his mother as he was officially unveiled as Real Madrid's new manager.

"Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother. But today is the happiest day of my life," Lopetegui said as he fought back tears.

Lopetegui, who had been in Russia preparing the national team for the World Cup, was dismissed on Wednesday after Madrid confirmed he would take over at the Bernabeu for next season.

9.40pm: Thumbs up for Hierro

While the goals were flying in for Russia, Spain were having their final news conference before their opening game against Portugal on Friday.

Attention was obviously on new head coach Fernando Hierro, who has taken over after Julen Lopetegui was fired on Wednesday for agreeing to take over as Real Madrid manager at the end of the tournament.

Sergio Ramos, the Spain captain, believes the side will not miss a beat.

"There are few people more qualified than Fernando Hierro to cover for Lopetegui's departure," Spain's captain Ramos told reporters. "He was an outstanding player that we've all admired for a long time and he knows us full well."

"He is one of the most perfect candidates to cover this post, and I hope that this will be a squad that has the same dreams and ambitions as before and that it will not affect us in any way."

Fernando Hierro, left, the Spain coach, with captain Sergio Ramos. Adrian Dennis / AFP 
Fernando Hierro, left, the Spain coach, with captain Sergio Ramos. Adrian Dennis / AFP 

9pm: Full time and it is 5-0

Well, that did not go to plan for Saudi Arabia one bit. A stoppage time free-kick from Aleksandr Golovin compounding a miserable night for the Saudis. Get John McAuley's match report here.

A dream start for Russia, who with a strong goal difference will know that they are in a good position to make the last 16 from here.

They next face Egypt. The Egyptians face Uruguay on Friday and depending on the result there another win for Russia could well guarantee the hosts qualification.

Saudi, with the goal difference of -5, realistically must beat both Uruguay and Egypt now to have any chance of reaching the second round.

8.52pm: It's 4-0

It has been a brilliant effort as the home team make it 4-0. Another goal from Denis Cheryshev.

8.32pm: Russia make it 3-0

It's getting more and more difficult to see Saudi Arabia winning this game after Artem Dzyuba scores on 71 minutes. Decent header from the striker, too.

This was a tweet from Gary Meenaghan just before the goal.

8.19m: Meanwhile, opening ceremony - in pictures

8.12pm: On the brighter side for the Saudis ...

8pm: Frustration for Saudi Arabia

The real pity is that Russia have not had to be very good to earn their two-goal lead. Poor marking for the first goal from a half-cleared corner and then being caught on the break have left them with the proverbial mountain to climb.

Our man in Moscow, John McAuley, believes Juan Antonio Pizzi's men have been their own worst enemy. This was his view on social media.

Russia's Denis Cheryshev celebrates scoring their second goal. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
Russia's Denis Cheryshev celebrates scoring their second goal. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

7.50pm: Half-time score - Russia 2 Saudi Arabia 0

The Russians walk off the pitch at half time feeling good about the state of play. But they will know it will be foolish to count Saudi Arabia out.

7.44pm: Russia make it 2-0

Exactly what Saudi Arabia did not need so close to half time. Denis Cheryshev scores for Russia, and the Saudis are now 2-0 down.

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7.40pm: Saudi trying to hit back

So, not the ideal start for Saudi Arabia, but they have settled since going back. But Juan Antonio Pizzi's men look quick on the break and the final ball has let them down on a couple of occasions.

Russia still look dangerous themselves going forward and Saudi cannot afford to go two behind here. 1-0 it remains to Russia with five minutes till half time.

7.13pm: Russia take the lead against the Saudis

Russia took a 1-0 lead courtesy of a nice header from Yury Gazinsky in the tournament opener. The midfielder scores off a Aleksandr Golovin cross from the left wing in the 12 minute, sparking scenes of delight from the home crowd.

7pm: We are go

World Cup 2018 has begun. It is Saudi Arabia who kick things off in Moscow in the Group A clash with Russia.

Russia have the pressure of looking to avoid being only the second hosts at a World Cup not to make it out of the group stages.

For Saudi the dream is to match their achievement of 1994 when they made the last 16. A point or better tonight would set that up nicely.

This was our man John McAuley's take on the Saudi Arabia team news.

6.37pm: World Cup trophy displayed at Moscow's Luzhniki

The World Cup trophy was displayed at the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday ahead of the tournament's opening match between host nation Russia and Saudi Arabia.

To deafening loud cheers at the crucible of Russian and Soviet sports, former Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas held up the golden trophy for fans to photograph.

Outside the refurbished stadium, colourful crowds of fans danced and chanted, with a heavy police presence keeping order.

The mood was festive and peaceful, with Russian fans cheering a group of Saudi fans in green who were congregating outside one of the entrances.

The opening ceremony included a mini-concert by British pop star Robbie Williams, who performed "Let Me Entertain You".

Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino officially open the tournament minutes before the 7pm kick-off.

A bellowing chant of "Russia!" echoed through the packed stadium as the opening ceremony got under way to music from Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

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6.20pm: Our man in the stadium

John McAuley, our main main in Russia, is in the Moscow's 80,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium Luzhniki Stadium at the moment as the home team and Saudi Arabia get ready for kick off.

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6.10pm: Salah to decide his fitness

More on the breaking news that Egypt are set to have Mohamed Salah in their line-up for their opening game at the World Cup against Uruguay on Friday.

Doctors have cleared Salah and manager Hector Cuper told reporters that the Liverpool forward will make a final call himself on whether he thinks he can start against Uruguay.

“Doctors are giving him the option,” said Cuper. “If he does decide to play he will have full guarantee (about his condition) and I am sure that he will be fine.

“If we see at the last minute that there is an issue then we will see if it can be resolved, but certainly he does not feel afraid.”

A happy Mohamed Salah, right, trains with his Egypt teammates. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters
A happy Mohamed Salah, right, trains with his Egypt teammates. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

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5.30pm: Our man is making friends

The National's John McAuley is out and about in Moscow ahead of the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

He has proven a hit with the Saudi fans as the build-up to the game continues, with 90 minutes to kick off at the Luzhniki Stadium.

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4.32pm: Good news for Egypt fans

John McAuley, our main man in Russia, brings some good news for those of you supporting Egypt and Mohamed Salah: their manager is sure the Liverpool forward will start against Uruguay.

4.19pm - Previous World Cup openers

With less than three hours until the 2018 World Cup officially gets under way with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia, it's worth considering what kind of match will we have in store.

On the surface, the two lowest ranked teams in the tournament (Russia are 70th, Saudi 67th) doesn't scream classic, but then we have been fooled before.

There have been some cracking opening matches in World Cups, and Ian Oxborrow has very kindly taken a venture into the vault to analyse what happened in the opening games of previous tournaments dating back to 1990, asking whether they should be considered a hit or a miss.

Read the article here.

Referee Michel Vautrot of Sweden with Diego Maradona of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Argentina and Cameroon on June 8, 1990 in Milan. Bongarts / Getty Images
Referee Michel Vautrot of Sweden with Diego Maradona of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Argentina and Cameroon on June 8, 1990 in Milan. Bongarts / Getty Images

3.25pm - Julen Lopetegui to be unveiled as new Real Madrid manager at 9pm UAE

Just a day after he was sacked on the eve of the World Cup, former Spain manager Julen Lopetegui arrived in Madrid on Thursday where he will be officially presented as Real Madrid's new manager.

Lopetegui landed at Madrid's Barajas airport just before 7am (UAE). He will be officially presented as Madrid's new manager for the next three seasons at an event at the Bernabeu stadium at 9pm (UAE), the club said in a statement.

Julen Lopetegui arrives atKrasnodar Airport to catch a flight to Madrid where he is set to be officially unveiled as Real Madrid manager on Thursday. EPA
Julen Lopetegui arrives atKrasnodar Airport to catch a flight to Madrid where he is set to be officially unveiled as Real Madrid manager on Thursday. EPA

"I am very sad, but we have a magnificent team and hopefully we'll win the World Cup," Lopetegui told reporters on his departure from Spain's training base in Krasnodar on Wednesday.

Spain's World Cup preparations were thrown into turmoil on Wednesday as Lopetegui was sacked by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), with Fernando Hierro taking charge just two days before their opening game in Russia.

Cristiano Ronaldo will look to lead by example for Portugal at the World Cup. Paulo Novais / EPA
Cristiano Ronaldo will look to lead by example for Portugal at the World Cup. Paulo Novais / EPA

Ronaldo is up to the challenge of winning the World Cup

Check this out from Andy Mitten:

The only major trophy in football which neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi have ever won is the World Cup.

Messi came closest when Argentina reached the final four years ago only to lose to Germany in extra time.

In his three previous attempts, Ronaldo has never gone beyond the semi-final stage and a fourth place finish in 2006 where Portugal were defeated 1-0 by France.

At 33, this is likely to be Ronaldo’s last chance while he is a top player, though he recently claimed that he intends to play until he is 41.

Given his motivation for continually proving doubters wrong, it would be a brave person who ruled him out of lining up in 2026 at the tournament shared by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Read the full story here.

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DOWNLOAD

You need a wall chart to keep track of the games? We've got one.

Download it here.

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ONE-STOP SHOP

Need a one-stop shop for everything from predictions, group guides, picture galleries and where to watch all 64 games in the UAE?

You're in luck then.

Visit our World Cup landing page to read expert opinion and features throughout the June 14-July 15 tournament.

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14.59pm - Pat Cash clearly no fan of the World Cup

Former Australian tennis player Pat Cash has taken a swipe at football on the eve of the World Cup by directing his Twitter followers towards Australian Rules - a "real man's sport".

The former Wimbledon champion sparked criticism with his comment as he posted a highlights package of Aussie Rules hero Shaun "Silk" Burgone, suggesting the country's most popular spectator sport was tougher than football.

"#worldcup approaches here some highlights from one of the #greatest in a real man's sport #afl," Cash tweeted.

"They don't call him "SILK" for nothing. [No rolling around on the ground trying to cheat a free kick from this man]."

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash would much rather watch Aussie Rules. MWTC
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash would much rather watch Aussie Rules. MWTC

Read the full story here.

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14.43pm - Germany training

Germany went through a second straight day of intense training. The reigning world champions have generated a fair amount of interest among fans, with an estimated 400 spectators out to see Joachim Low and his team go through the paces on Wednesday. Germany, who are in Group F, face Mexico in their opening match at 7pm on Sunday.

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14.15pm - England training

Gareth Southgate's England squad took time out from their training preparations in Saint Petersburg to honour the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed the lives of 72 people one year ago.

The tower and other London buildings were lit green at 03:54am UAE, the time a fire was reported in a flat last June.

England open their Group G campaign in Russia on June 18 against Tunisia.

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14.05pm - Attacking options for France

France do not actually start their campaign in Group C until Saturday when they take on Australia, but some focus is on them, or rather who will play in attack for them.

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud may have to be content with a place on the bench as Didier Deschamps looks to be heading in another direction with his forward line.

Kylian Mbappe, 19, and 21-year-old Ousmane Dembele, who have linked up impressively during the build-up matches, should start along with Antoine Griezmann, 27, to form a fearsome trio.

"We are three players who appreciate each other. We put our egos on the side," Mbappe told reporters, as he added he was "100 per cent" after taking a knock on his ankle at training earlier this week.

"There are not a lot of teams who have a better attacking lineup than us."

France striker Kylian Mbappe. Yuri Kochetkov / EPA
France striker Kylian Mbappe. Yuri Kochetkov / EPA

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The wait is over. Four years after Germany lifted the World Cup in Brazil, Russia open the 2018 edition against Saudi Arabia to kick off a month-long football extravaganza.

The match follows the Opening Ceremony, where British popstar Robbie Williams is due to perform, at 7pm UAE time.

The hosts are the lowest-ranked side in the tournament and, as Richard Jolly described in his feature on Russian football, the outlook is generally bleak.

So do ex-players. “The Russian team is in such a sorry state that if we were not hosting the tournament, we would probably have struggled to qualify for it,” Andrei Kanchelskis wrote in his book Russian Winters.

Russia did not win a game in either the 2014 World Cup or Euro 2016. They have not won in seven games. They at least tasted victory in last summer’s Confederations Cup. But in Saudi Arabia they face the second-lowest ranked side at the World Cup, one who are competing at a global finals for the first time in 12 years. The Gulf state become the first Asian country to open the tournament when they take on the hosts at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

We will have plenty in the build up. In the meantime why not check out some of delectable items in our World Cup package.

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Egypt players celebrate a 2-1 victory over Congo on October 8, 2017 that sent them to their first World Cup finals in 28 years Tarek Abdel Hamid / AFP
Egypt players celebrate a 2-1 victory over Congo on October 8, 2017 that sent them to their first World Cup finals in 28 years Tarek Abdel Hamid / AFP

We love this opening passage from John McAuley's exclusive interview with Egypt defender Ahmed Elmohamady:

Ahmed Elmohamady remembers it well. How could he not?

He remembers the crush of conceding in the final minute, then the relief of being given an almost instant reprieve. He remembers the rush on the pitch, the rush of emotion, the players, the staff and supporters celebrating the award of the penalty. He remembers quickly thinking “but we haven’t scored yet”.

He remembers collecting the ball amid the bedlam and passing it Mohamed Salah, his team’s designated penalty taker. He remembers telling his teammate, just about above the din on the field and the delirium all around Borg El Arab Stadium, “all the best, good luck,” because “it was a difficult time for him”. He remembers Salah’s concentration. “We all know how good he is.”

He remembers the elation when the ball hit the net, since there was no time for Congo to respond, that “you know the game’s gone”. He remembers the “crazy” scenes that followed.

Read the full interview here.

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You like a quiz? You like World Cup quizzes? Of course you do. See if you can do better than our experts in our Extra Time podcast World Cup special.

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Planes, trains and automobiles - listen to our World Cup correspondent John McAuley outline the process of getting accredited for the World Cup in Russia, and some of the arduous treks he must undertake on the ground.

LISTEN:

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Most of the noise in the build-up to the game has been taken up by Mohamed Salah's shoulder, but surely there has never been anything as sensational as the sacking of a manager on the eve of a World Cup?

Spain manager Julen Lopetegui was given his marching orders by the Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales who, it has to be said, looks like he could kill you with one look, on Wednesday, with the Spaniards none too happy with the way Lopetegui's announcement he will become new Real Madrid manager was handled.

Sporting director Fernando Hierro will now lead the team when they kick off their Group B campaign on Friday against Portugal.

It's always nice to see a Sam Allardyce signing managing at a World Cup, isn't it?

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DOWNLOAD

You need a wall chart to keep track of the games? We've got one.

Download it here.

________________

Need a one-stop shop for everything from predictions, group guides, picture galleries and where to watch all 64 games in the UAE?

You're in luck then.

Visit our World Cup landing page to read expert opinion and features throughout the June 14-July 15 tournament.

________________