North American trio beats Morocco to host 2026 World Cup

It was a goal that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, seated alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino, and shake his hand.

Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header off Golovin's cross.

Yuri Gazinskiy and Cheryshev struck first-half goals to open their worldwide accounts at Luzhniki Stadium, Artem Dzyuba adding a third 89 seconds after his introduction as a second-half replacement, but an injury to star man Alan Dzagoev will cause concern for Russian Federation.

Russia's win was also the biggest in a World Cup opener in 84 years since Italy's 7-1 over the United States in 1934.

For Saudi Arabia it was a return to the global showpiece for the first time in 12 years, with their only previous finals wins at the 1994 World Cup.

Russian Federation even overcame the setback of losing midfielder Alan Dzagoev to a 22nd-minute injury by scoring again through Denis Cheryshev (twice) and Artem Dzyuba to record a convincing victory.

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The crowd were then treated to a fabulous finale as Cheryshev cleverly rifled home an unstoppable curving fourth with the outside of his foot before Golovin capped a great personal performance by curling his free kick beyond the wall.

Following a lavish opening ceremony featuring British singer Robbie Williams, Putin welcomed visiting fans and promised Russian Federation would be a "hospitable and friendly" host.

Canada will host men's World Cup matches for the first time, while Mexico gets its first taste of the event since 1986.

It also helps if you are facing a team who have now lost eight and drawn two of their last 10 World Cup matches, whose defending fell painfully short of World Cup standard and whose attack was non-existent.

What's next? The other two sides in Group A - Egypt and Uruguay - open their campaigns when they meet at midnight tonight (NZT).

Saudi Arabia sent some players to the Spanish league for experience this season but they didn't get much playing time while there.

  • Michelle Webb