As the great Robbie Williams once sung: “I’ve taken as much as I’m willing to take.” These are lyrics that Saudi Arabia could very much relate to after going 12 rounds with the footballing equivalent of Nikolai Valuev on Day One of the World Cup.
Many pessimists (and realists) predicted a scoreless bore draw to kick off this summer’s festival of football but Russia’s bulldozing attack and a defensive effort from Saudi Arabia resembling a handful of wet tissue ensured we saw the net bulge five times on the opening day. But apart from dropping the Saudi’s goalkeeper from our rosters, what can Fantasy managers take from an opening day drubbing.
An obvious one to start with; Alexandr Golovin staked an early Player of the Tournament claim by putting in a sparkling MOTM performance. The 21-year-old lit up the Luzhniki, firstly by (twice) displaying his pinpoint crossing accuracy by creating two unmissable headed chance before topping off a day to remember by scoring a free kick “perfect for a left footer” with his right. If you picked him for your GW1 squad, nice work. Is it too late to get on board if not? Possibly, but no one expected James Rodriguez to keep it up four years ago.
The Russian battering ram
As expected, Fyodor Smolov got the nod up front in the opener. For all his hard work and industry, the Krasnodar striker was largely ineffective against a “stubborn” Saudi rearguard and was hooked off at 2-0 for 196cm, 91kg lump of Russian steel Artem Dzyuba. A minute after bounding across the field, Dzyuba got his head on a Golovin cross to make it 3-0 before bullying the defence to set up the fourth. Will the super sub steal a starting spot?
One to Cherysh-ev
While Golovin will rightly take the plaudits, Stanislav Cheryshev should reserve a place in his scrap book for this one. When influencial playmaker Alan Dzagoev limped off after 24 minutes, Cheryshev was given an unexpectedly early entrance to the action; a chance which he took with both hands. Minutes before the interval he brilliantly caressed the ball over the sliding tackles of two Saudi lunges before smashing it into the roof of the net. With seconds remaining, he then score the goal of the game, bending the ball into the top corner with the outside of his foot from the edge of the area. Definite GW2 starter, probable free agent. Get him in.
Stock up on Uruguay
Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will already be owned in draft leagues but any of the chaps supplying the bullets from midfield and probably even both full backs should be considered for their GW2 match up with Saudi Arabia. In fact, just stick anyone wearing sky blue in for that one. De Arrascaete (only 5.5 in the salary version of the game) and Nandez (5.0) are the most likely apart from the front two to do the damage. Stock up.
Finally, avoid Saudi Arabia
Obviously. This was arguably their easiest game. They’ll be on their way home on the 26th of June.