Confidence but not complacency – that was the feeling from previously pessimistic Russia fans after watching their team kick the World Cup off in style


What more the fans could have asked for!

The hosts were brilliant to start their World Cup campaign 5-0. Who cares about the opposition? Saudi Arabia had more than 60 per cent possession of the ball, yet failed to have a shot on goal. As per the FIFA rankings, Saudi Arabia (67) is three places ahead of Russia. But they conceded five goals.

The resounding victory has given the home fans something to cheer about their team at last. For the last seven matches, the Russian football team was going through a winless run. That was broken and who could have thought it even seven days before the tournament?

Russian fans on the street before the game were not particularly happy. Criticism and negativity were in the air. Four years ago, Brazil had almost the same problem before the opening match. People were not happy with so much money spent on rebuilding the stadiums. The national team was not playing that well. An air of uncertainty surrounded the Samba Boys. But when Neymar scored a brace and Oscar made it 3-1 in the dying moments at the Arena de Sao Paulo, everything took the back seat until Neymar was injured in the quarter-final against Colombia and the Germans ran riot in the semi-final.

The proverbial million-dollar question now is can Russia earn their passage to the second round from a group where Luis Suarez’s Uruguay and Mo Salah’s Egypt were favoured by the critics to go through?

Russians are not like Brazilians.

They are a lot more disciplined even in their daily life than the Brazilians.

Neither do they go gaga over victories nor can a defeat become the end of the world!

Fans present in the Luzhniki gallery erupted with joy when those goals were scored. But when you meet them after the match, the contented fans successfully hid their emotions and reacted sensibly.

Perhaps, they know the future cannot be as bright as it was shown against Saudi Arabia.

But, the most important thing is, that the victory had brought back a smile. Their President Vladimir Putin will be more than happy to show the world that their team is capable of earning resounding victories on the football field. The history of the World Cup has shown it many times, especially in South America, where politicians had always tried to latch on to the football fiesta to achieve their political ambitions.

And, what will be the legacy the World Cup leaves in Russian football?

Controversies are a plenty at the moment. Quite natural for a country ranked as the lowest (70) in FIFA to host a World Cup.

Their premier league seemed to have lost attention among local fans. A new rule allows only six foreign footballers to be in the playing XI. More Russian footballers will come up, administrators said. But the popularity took a downward path.


There is a serious shortage of talented footballers in Russia now. Other European nations are not interested in taking them. A lack of funding for football is a serious concern. For the World Cup, $11 billion has been spent already. That is huge for a country where most of the clubs are state-sponsored. Whether this Russian team can now dream of a turnaround past this stupendous victory, remains to be seen.

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