Pomp, absurdity and goals galore get Russia’s show off to a delirious start

Opening night in Moscow had grandeur and hugeness, plus a home team so urgent and creative it was tempting to wonder if a Russia+1 filter had been placed over the pitchTake that! On opening night in Moscow the World Cup turned a full-flush red, setting off like a train inside a periodically delirious Luzhniki Stadium. Every tournament needs a fully functioning host nation. The fear had been that an ageing, stagnant Russia team might bleed a little life from the World Cup right at the start. In the event it all went off like a dream. There was the required grimly magisterial speech from your host for the night, Mr Vladimir Putin. A commendably short opening ceremony played out like a homespun Saturday teatime TV oddity. And best of all a Russian team that had been written off by everyone with a biro and a scrap of paper to produced a powerful, convincing performance en route to a 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia. Continue reading...