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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 August 2018

World Cup opening matches: How will Russia v Saudi Arabia compare to previous years?

From Cameroon's upset in 1990 to Senegal in 1998, we take a look back on the opening day of previous World Cups

Claudio Caniggia of Argentina is shadowed by Benjamin Massing of Cameroon during the World Cup first round match at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, Italy in 1990. Cameroon won the match 1-0. Allsport UK / Allsport
Claudio Caniggia of Argentina is shadowed by Benjamin Massing of Cameroon during the World Cup first round match at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, Italy in 1990. Cameroon won the match 1-0. Allsport UK / Allsport

Russia against Saudi Arabia wouldn't usually set the pulse racing for the neutral football fan. But this is the World Cup, and football at its most glorious, so TV schedules will be checked all around the globe to ensure that the first moments of Russia 2018 aren't missed when it begins on Thursday.

It has always been that way - the excitement building in the preceding days and then the burst of colour at the opening ceremony before the real action takes over. Unfortunately, it can give way to an anti-climax when the opening match fails to live up to expectations, as fans are pumped up and expect instant fireworks.

There have, however, been some cracking opening matches in World Cups, so here is a run through of what happened every four years going back to 1990, and whether they should be considered a hit or a miss:

MILAN - JUNE 8: 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, Italy. (Photo by 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

World Cup 1990: Argentina 0 - 1 Cameroon

A classic upset. This was Argentina with Diego Maradona in full flow up against a Cameroon side made up of journeyman players very few had ever heard of. Of the key moments which live long in the memory, the first was the goal, scored by Francois Omam-Biyik, whose tremendous leap was followed by a header that was hopelessly dealt with by goalkeeper Nery Pumpido in the 67th minute. It became a brutal encounter in which Andre Kana-Biyik was sent off in the 61st minute, and then, in a moment of World Cup folklore, Claudio Caniggia was scythed down at the third attempt by Benjamin Massing who was also given his marching orders two minutes before full time. Cameroon and Roger Milla in particular went on to win hearts around the world as they reached the quarter-finals before crashing out to England.

Verdict: HIT

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CHICAGO, UNITED STATES - JUNE 17: Juergen Klinsmann of Germany and Gustavo Quinteros of Bolivia in action during the World Cup match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Beate Mueller/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Jurgen Klinsmann of Germany and Gustavo Quinteros of Bolivia in action during the World Cup match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994 in Chicago. Beate Mueller / Bongarts / Getty Images

World Cup 1994: Germany 1 - 0 Bolivia

The host nation always gets to kick off the World Cup, right? Wrong. Fans in the United States had to sit through this at Soldier Field in Chicago before seeing their own flesh and blood the following morning. In fact, that sounds like another World Cup oddball - a match kicking off in the morning. Anyway, the Germany match was memorable solely for the goal itself which, like in 1990, featured a goalkeeping error of the highest order. Carlos Trucco came charging off his line to try to intercept a long punt over the top of the defence and ended up on his backside, leaving Jurgen Klinsmann to slot into an empty goal.

Verdict: MISS

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10 Jun 1998: Cesar Sampaio of Brazil celebrates scoring the opening goal of the World Cup during the group A game against Scotland at the Stade de France in St Denis, France. Brazil won 2-1 \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport
Cesar Sampaio of Brazil celebrates scoring the opening goal of the World Cup during the group A game against Scotland at the Stade de France in St Denis, France. Shaun Botterill / Allsport

World Cup 98: Brazil 2 - 1 Scotland

"Just don't come home too soon" crooned Del Amitri in Scotland's World Cup anthem, and for a while at least - 36 minutes to be precise - their fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their team were capable of marching beyond the group stage. Brazil took the lead after five minutes through Cesar Sampaio before John Collins levelled with a penalty seven minutes before half time. And from there the belief among Scotland's Tartan Army swelled, until disaster struck on 74 minutes when the ball ricocheted off 39-year-old goalkeeper Jim Leighton onto the chest of Tom Boyd and went in. Scotland went home quite soon after.

Verdict: HIT

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SEOUL - MAY 31: Thiery Henry of France (right) is pursued by Ferdinand Coly of Senegal during the second half of the France v Senegal Group A, World Cup Group Stage match played at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea on May 31, 2002. Senegal won the game 1 - 0. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)
Thierry Henry of France (right) is pursued by Ferdinand Coly of Senegal during the second half of the France v Senegal Group A, World Cup Group Stage match played at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on May 31, 2002. Ben Radford / Getty Images

World Cup 2002: France 0 - 1 Senegal

Another tale of the underdog triumphing in what is still regarded as one of the greatest World Cup upsets. This was France with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Marcel Desailly and a host of other big names, up against the likes of unknowns such Omar Daf, Lamine Diatta and Tony Sylva. El Hadji Diouf, who became a big-money signing for Liverpool, was also in that side and impressed everyone at the tournament before Premier League fans found out he wasn't as good as everyone initially thought. The only goal - a scruffy affair - was scored by Papa Bouba Diop, who was joined by his teammates near the corner flag for a celebratory dance around his shirt which was thrown on the ground.

Verdict: HIT

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MUNICH, GERMANY - JUNE 09: Miroslav Klose of Germany is challenged by Douglas Sequeira of Costa Rica during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group A match between Germany and Costa Rica at the Stadium Munich on June 9, 2006 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)
Miroslav Klose of Germany is challenged by Douglas Sequeira of Costa Rica during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group A match between Germany and Costa Rica at the Stadium Munich on June 9, 2006 in Munich. Ben Radford / Getty Images

World Cup 2006: Germany 4 - 2 Costa Rica

This was exactly the type of start a World Cup should have. Six goals alone would have been enough, yet we were treated to two of the best strikes of the tournament - the first of which came after a mere six minutes when Philip Lahm curled in from an angle, and after Miroslav Klose added two more to his growing World Cup haul which would eventually become a record, Torsten Frings put the icing on the cake with a 30-yard piledriver. A Paulo Wanchope double offered Costa Rica a sliver of hope but it was the tournament hosts who would prevail.

Verdict: HIT

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: Tsepo Masilela of South Africa challenges Ricardo Osorio of Mexico during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City Stadium on June 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Tsepo Masilela of South Africa challenges Ricardo Osorio of Mexico during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City Stadium on June 11, 2010 in Johannesburg. Michael Steele / Getty Images

World Cup 2010: South Africa 1 - 1 Mexico

It's a shame that the start to this tournament in South Africa is remembered more for the cacophony coming from the vuvuzelas in the crowd than it is for another fine goal during the opening 90 minutes. Bafana Bafana took the lead through Siphiwe Tshabalala's left-foot rocket after 55 minutes, sending the home fans delirious. The party was quelled by Rafael Marquez 11 minutes from the end and many watching on television had switched the sound to mute by the then.

Verdict: MISS

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Luka Modric of Croatia tackles Neymar of Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Luka Modric of Croatia tackles Neymar of Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo. Buda Mendes / Getty Images

World Cup 2014: Brazil 3 - 1 Croatia

It all started so well for Brazil on home soil. Two goals for golden boy Neymar and a solid enough performance against a Croatian side containing star names such as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. For the neutral, there was plenty to talk about after an own-goal by Brazil's Marcelo which was worthy of a chuckle or two, and a penalty awarded for a hideous dive by Fred. Oscar, meanwhile, wrapped the match up by recreating the toe-punt technique seen regularly across UK playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. Sadder times would follow for Brazil, who were later beaten 7-1 by Germany.

Verdict: HIT

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Read more:

World Cup 2018: Guides, predictions, podcasts, galleries and where to watch in UAE

World Cup 2018: 10 Golden Boot contenders beyond Messi and Ronaldo

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