Host nation Russia crushed pitiful Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow on Thursday to kick-off what experts hope would be a tournament of goals.
Russia’s 5-0 victory recorded against Saudi Arabia became the second biggest victory by a host nation in their opening match in World Cup history.
The scoreline is only bettered by Italy’s 7-1 defeat of U.S. at the 1934 World Cup in Italy.
It was also the first time Russia have scored more than three goals in a World Cup game since whip-lashing Cameroon 6-1 at USA’94.
Thursday’s opening match therefore came as a pleasant surprise to football experts, considering the caginess and scarcity of goals which World Cup opening matches were characterised by in recent times.
Some experts believe that Russia 2018 would record plenty of goals, thanks to the Adidas Telstar 18 World Cup official ball.
Korgba Emmanuel, a football administrator based in Makurdi, Benue State, noted that the official World Cup ball would be goalkeepers’ nightmare in Russia.
“The Telstar 18 will be goalkeepers’ nightmare at this year’s World Cup.
“We were told that it was designed with goal scoring in mind and you know spectators want to see goals, plenty of goals, at major tournaments such as the World Cup,” he said.
A product of three years of research, the Telstar 18 uses jigsaw-like panels and slots together perfectly so that when players hit the “sweet spot”, they do so without dip or swerve.
Some goalkeepers, including Spain’s David de Gea, compatriot Pepe Reina and Ter Stegen of Germany, had labelled the ball “strange” and “unpredictable”.
However, Super Eagles former defender, Waidi Akanni, observed that the rather shocking outcome of the opening match would not necessarily mean a floodgate of goals at football’s biggest fiesta.
“I was surprised by the scoreline myself. However, it doesn’t mean that Russia 2018 will be a harvest of goals.
“Russia and Saudi Arabia are the least-ranked teams in the tournament and, of course, Saudi Arabia are known to concede heavily at the World Cup.
“As the host nation, Russia just took advantage of their woeful opponents and they also were clinical in front of goal.
“I am not sure we will see a lot of goals in more high-profile matches,” Akanni, a former head of the Lagos State Football Association, said.