7 Thoughts on Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

  • All the talk before the game was about how poor both teams are.  Russia hadn’t won in 7 games, with Saudi Arabia winning only 1 of their last 7.  To be frank, Saudi Arabia looked terrible.  Russia on the other hand got exactly the result they needed to gain confidence and perhaps build something.


  • Russia were the more positive right from the start.  The plan was clear – press high and cause mistakes…and it worked.  Saudi Arabia may have had higher possession and passing statistics throughout the game, but they were constantly going nowhere.  An interesting statistic is that Russia won 74% of aerials.  They bullied Saudi Arabia.


  • The first goal on the 11th minute was caused by awful defending.  With his marker falling over, Gazinskiy had plenty of time to calmly head the ball in the back of the net.  To be fair, the ball from Golovin was excellent.  He looked excellent today, causing havoc down the left side, before moving into the centre when Dzagoev went off injured, and scoring a beautiful free-kick right at the end.


  • The second goal was the epitome of Russia’s counter-attacking strategy, with Saudi Arabia’s defence once again making it easy for them.  The substitute Cheryshev showed great skill to flick it up over the defender’s tackle before finishing at the near post.  The keeper should have done better.


  • Saudi Arabia tried to play a nice game.  They attempted to string passes together and build-up play, but you have to wonder what was the point?  They weren’t capable of stringing enough passes together.  They simply weren’t at the technical level required.  I’m a fan of playing attacking free-flowing football, but when there is a clear technical difference between two sides, the underdog should make it ugly.  They should make it physical.  They should attempt long counters.  Saudi Arabia did none of this.  I assumed after half-time Saudi Arabia would change it up.  They waited until the 63rd minute to make a sub, but within 7 minutes the third goal had gone in and the game was over.


  • How big an issue will Dzagoev’s injury be?  Well they did just fine without him but he did look excellent today for the first 21 minutes and Russia will need him for the bigger tests ahead against Egypt and Uruguay.


  • This was a very poor game, with one team clearly better than the other.  For Saudi Arabia, they seriously need to think of changing it up drastically.  Perhaps going for a 5-man defence and making it ugly is the only way to go, but frankly it looks like their tournament is already over.  For Russia, there were plenty of positives, although there are much, much harder tests ahead.  Even against Saudi Arabia, 5 goals were an excellent return.  It helps a tournament if the hosts have a good tournament.  I hope that will be the case.