20 million Saudis set to watch World Cup opening match

A bear stands in the forest on the mountain of Nymfeo northern Greece

A bear stands in the forest on the mountain of Nymfeo northern Greece

Aleksandr Golovin of Russian Federation fields the ball against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup opener.

The opening goal came soon after, as Saudi Arabia failed to clear a corner and a curling cross in from the left by Golovin picked out an unmarked Gazinsky to head low into the far corner.

Denis Cheryshev, who came on as a substitute in the 24th minute, scored two great goals, including an absolutely handsome curling effort in stoppage time at the end of the second that is likely to be one of the goals of the tournament.

It is "a mix of everything", he said, adding that the company was working with Saudi sports authorities to try to have the girls attend the country's other matches.

It was Russia's first World Cup win since 2002 and ended a seven-game winless run overall.

The World Cup kicks off in Russian Federation on Thursday as years of preparations dogged by diplomatic scandals give way to a month-long feast of action on the field.

Saudi Arabia were made to pay again for their defensive frailties when Russian Federation extended their lead through a headed goal by Artem Dzyuba in the 71st minute.

Both sides tried to assert their dominance in the opening exchanges by holding onto the ball and dictating the tempo of the game.

Saudi Arabia captain Osama Hawsawi was on his guard against Golovin - and Argentine referee Nestor Pitana didn't bother to consult the video assistant despite Golovin's penalty appeal.

But there was a major blow for the hosts mid-way through the half as star playmaker Dzagoev limped off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Cheryshev.

On the day of the curtain-raiser, Russian Federation freed the main opposition figure to Putin, Alexei Navalny, from jail after he served a 30-day sentence for organising an illegal protest.

In addition to installing toilet bowls and painting the prison bars, Navalny said cell blocks have been fitted with LCD screens for prisoners to watch World Cup matches.

But for now, few World Cup fans have found themselves in the refurbished cell blocks.

Russia's game with Saudi Arabia was the first in Group A. The second, which sees Mo Salah's Egypt take on Uruguay takes place at 1pm on Friday.

The 47-year-old coach said that the hosts may find it tough to progress to the knockout stage as they will face tough competition from group rivals Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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