Russia opened the 2018 World Cup in style with a 5-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia—a match that featured one ex-Villarreal player as a coach (Juan Antonio Pizzi, who ended his playing career with us in 2002), one Villarreal loanee (Salem al-Dawsari) and one full-time member of the Yellow Submarine, Denis Cheryshev.
Chery started on the bench but came on after 24 minutes due to an Alan Dzagoev injury, with Russia already up 1-0. Denis scored two goals—the first after 43 minutes:
If that goal, nice as it was, had a bit of Keystone Kops defending helping it out, his second goal—Russia’s fourth—was an absolute belter:
Chery ran round the bouncing ball to put it on his favored left foot, and—bang!
Russia won 5-0; as for Salem, he had a few good moments but basically got no help in attacking the Russian defense.
Russia were regarded as a weak team in a weak group, but a 5-0 win puts Egypt and Uruguay, who meet tomorrow, on notice that (a) they can’t play for a safe draw and expect both will go through and (b) when they play Saudi Arabia, they must show no mercy. Goal difference could be important.
Cheryshev has battled injuries since signing permanently with Villarreal, and played less than 1000 league minutes this year. Left wing for Villarreal looks stacked, especially with Alfonso Pedraza, a player who has modeled his game on that of Denis, coming back after a successful year on loan and looking to become a permanent part of our first team. If Villarreal is indeed thinking Chery is a player who could be sold, today’s performance didn’t do us any harm.
(1) Cheryshev became the first substitute in an opening World Cup match to score a goal (Dzyuba became the second when he scored Russia’s third goal in this match).
(2) These were the first two goals Denis has scored for Russia’s senior team.
(3) Denis became only the second Villarreal player to score a goal in the World Cup (while Villarreal property). Gio dos Santos was the first, scoring against the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16.