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FIFA World Cup 2018: Aleksandr Golovin raises stock with super show for Russia

Aleksandr Golovin was excellent in the midfield as Russia thumped Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of FIFA World Cup 2018 in Moscow on Thursday.

football Updated: Jun 15, 2018 19:05 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
FIFA World Cup 2018, Aleksandr Golovin,Russia football team
Aleksandr Golovin controls the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2018 encounter between Russia and Saudi Arabia.(AFP)

Aleksandr Golovin started Russia’s FIFA World Cup 2018 opener against Saudi Arabia on the left wing. The danger he posed to the right side of Saudi Arabia’s defence was visible early in the way defenders rushed to close him down.

With his pace, his on and off-the-ball movement as well his sense of position, Golovin didn’t take long to make his presence felt in the game. In the 12th minute, Golovin spotted teammate Iury Gazinski unmarked inside the Saudi box and floated a ball straight to the latter’s head. 1-0 to Russia!

Ten minutes later, Alan Dzagoev, playing behind the striker, limped out with injury. In came Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev. He took his place on the left flank and Golovin was moved into Dzagoev’s position.

READ | Denis Cheryshev’s brace helps Russia thrash Saudi Arabia in FIFA 2018 World Cup

If the CSKA Moscow star had looked dangerous early on, he was on a rampage now. Playing with greater freedom, Golovin carved open the Saudi backline from his No. 10 role.

There was little the three-time Asian champions could do. Golovin continued to wreak havoc and the Saudis narrowly avoided giving away a penalty after bringing him down in the 35th minute.

Seven minutes later, his clever ball helped Roman Zobnin set up a goal for Cheryshev.

In the second half, Golovin assisted Artem Dzyuba’s goal with a delightful cross from the right flank before rounding off the 5-0 win with a last-minute goal from a free-kick.

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It was a performance that will further raise the stock of a player already linked to some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Most recently, amid rumours of interest from Barcelona, Golovin was reported to have agreed to a move to Juventus, according to reports in Italy.

After Thursday’s game, Golovin sought to play down interest from the Turin giants.

“I am honoured and pleased by interest from Juventus, but I want to have a great World Cup,” he said. “For now I want to focus on the World Cup and Russia.”

READ | Russia open FIFA World Cup 2018 with a five-star show against Saudi Arabia

For a team desperately in need of a creative force, Golovin will be crucial to Russia’s hopes in this World Cup campaign. With Dzagoev’s likely absence from remaining games, Golovin should hold on to the No. 10 role where he impressed on Thursday.

James Rodriguez earned a move to Real Madrid on the back of a prolific World Cup campaign in 2014. If Golovin manages to continue in the same vein as on Thursday, a move to a big European clubs looks to be on the horizon.

Early days but maybe, just maybe, the World Cup that was supposed to be about Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Mo Salah has got another star to talk about.

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 19:05 IST