As soon as the 2018 FIFA World Cup was allocated to Russia, the media was full of apprehensions as to how successful the event will prove to be. Especially the Western press was unsure how well this event would turn out to be. Well, at least the opening has been spectacular! Not because of the opening ceremony itself – although Robbie Williams tried his best! But because of the five star five goal performance by the hosts against Saudi Arabia. So what led to this spectacular opening? Here are three reasons why the Russian footballers delivered as if they were mafia dons!
1) Rankings Rank Poorly
To be honest, the FIFA ranking system has been outdated for a number of years now. That is the precise reason why Russia, ranked 70, managed to crush Saudi Arabia who are ranked 67! The weightage allocated to friendlies and meaningless rubbers has been way too high. This resulted in a false illusion that Asian also-rans Saudi are better than European also-rans Russia, which is certainly not true now! The Russians managed to trounce the Saudis 5-0 and to be honest the Saudis looked more like 167 in the rankings.
2) Siege Mentality
For political reasons or otherwise, the Russians were in the “us against the world” mode today. And that is how they played as well. An early goal gave them a great morale boost and by half time they were two up. After the break the Saudis created a couple of opportunities but they were not able to get a foothold in the game. Yes, a couple of late goals added superficial gloss to the scoreline, but I believe the Russians deserved this. They managed to execute their game plan perfectly and came out all guns blazing.
3) Home Advantage
Home advantage also proved to be critical. Over the last few years, most of Saudi’s decent performances have come at home. And this was quite a long way off! The Russians felt the support of the crowd and managed to use it to their advantage. Although the next World Cup will technically not be held in Saudi Arabia but it will be as close to home advantage as it can get (Middle East). Looking at the way they defended today, they might as well start planning for 2022!
To sum up, Russia has shown all its might today. Despite all the doubters and haters, they have managed to perform on the opening day! We certainly hope that the average goals per game ratio for this World Cup will be the same on the first day as well as the last!