The World Cup often brings together teams that would not usually meet in international games, even in friendlies. One such meeting was the World Cup opening game, as Russia faced Saudi Arabia.
On paper, there did not seem to be much between the teams. However, Russia hammered the Asian nation 5-0 to start their World Cup with a bang.
Russia were quicker, stronger and more intelligent
I honestly believed that this game would be relatively close, with the home side recording a narrow margin of victory. However, from kick-off, Russia were just quicker, stronger and more intelligent.
The Russians pressed the very poor Saudi defence and they could not cope with what the home nation had to offer. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side had struggled for confidence in previous games and the home media had been highly critical of the team.
However, spirits and confidence will now be sky-high in the home nation after the win, as Saudi made Russia look like Brazil at times.
The Asian team offered very little attacking threat. The problem seemed to be that all the attacking players were quick similar. They did not have a pacey striker to go over the top or a big striker to use as a focal point for an attack. When it came to creativity they were completely devoid of any ideas when it got to the final third of the pitch.
Terrible use of the ball
Saudi Arabia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi is an experienced football man. He played in Spain for a long time having been born in Argentina. He has managed in South America and his adopted country, Spain.
He is obviously keen on his team playing out from the back. Unfortunately, his players do seem capable of doing it. The two centre-backs Omar and Osama looked nervous when they had the ball.
On a number of occasions, they kicked the ball out of play. When they were not finding touch, they were giving the ball straight back to the home side, who admittedly press well for much of the game. The centre-backs were not the only guilty parties when it came to giving the ball away, though, as it seems to be an epidemic throughout the team. They were struggling to do the basics rights.
It is not hard to pass the ball to a player in the same colour shirt. However, the Saudi players on display made it looked very difficult.
Saudi continue to be poor at World Cups
To be honest I was not expecting great things from the Saudis just on the evidence of their previous tournament displays and the quality of player available for the competition.
The Asian nation has now lost nine of their last 13 games at World Cups. Judging by their showing on Thursday evening, defeat number ten is not far off. Both Egypt and Uruguay will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Pizzi’s side in Group A.
The upside to the defeat is that things can only get better for Saudi Arabia. Well, you would think so anyway. They have yet to face Mohamed Salah, Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani. There may be trouble ahead for Pizzi and his team in Russia.
Did Saudi Arabia deserve to lose 5-0 against Russia?