Russia ended a 16-year wait for victory in the tournament by routing Saudi Arabia 5-0 Thursday in Group A, with the Russian president watching from the VIP box alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino and the Saudi crown prince.
Substitute Denis Cheryshev scored twice, followed by solitary efforts from Yury Gazinsky, Artem Dzyuba and finally Aleksandr Golovin. But that's not the case with Russian Federation, whose two remaining games are against group favorites Uruguay and Egypt.
Several minutes later Russia's Head Coach Cherchesov opted for another replacement and sent in Artyom Dzyuba in place of Fyodor Smolov.
The crowd were then treated to a fabulous finale as Cheryshev cleverly steered home the fourth with the outside of his foot before Golovin capped a great personal performance by curling his free kick beyond the wall to get the month-long Moscow party well and truly started.
Heavy defeats against Brazil and France in March set alarm bells ringing for Russian fans and their 1-1 draw against Turkey last Tuesday means they head into the World Cup without a victory in their last seven matches.
The opening match will be held in the presence of sports leaders and officials of the countries participating in the World Cup, apart from 80,000 spectators.
Alan Dzagoev had been at the heart of things in their midfield promptings but had to go off after pulling a hamstring in the 23rd minute.
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Saudi briefly threatened early in the second half when an inviting cross in from the right skipped just beyond the reach of Taiseer Al-Jassam.
Pizzi was appointed to the job after Saudi Arabia qualified previous year for the finals.
Russia's bench players had their day of glory.
Saudi Arabia sent some players to the Spanish league for experience this season but they didn't get much playing time while there.
Minutes before the game started in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Putin said: "I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world". "We've done everything to ensure that fans, sportsmen and professionals soak up the atmosphere of this great football holiday and, of course, enjoy their stay in an open, hospitable and welcoming Russian Federation".
Egypt and Uruguay are due to play the second Group A match in Yekaterinburg on Friday.
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