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14th Jun 2018

Man United transfer target runs the show in World Cup opening game

He was the best player on the pitch

Robert Redmond

The 2018 World Cup got underway in Moscow on Thursday afternoon.

Russia recorded a 50 victory over Saudi Arabia in the opening game of Group A to give themselves a chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the competition. The hosts are the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, and not expected to go far in their own World Cup.

However, they showed some flashes of quality in Thursday’s match, and Aleksandr Golovin was particularly impressive.

The Russia number 17 was the best player on the pitch and was at the heart of everything positive from Russia. Golovin is a classy, creative midfielder, with an excellent range of passing, and has long been linked with a transfer away from CSKA Moscow to several top European clubs.

The 22-year-old is reportedly close to a move to Juventus, who value him at €20m (£17.4m), while Arsenal are also said to be interested. Jose Mourinho also reportedly scouted Golovin during Austria’s friendly with Russia last month, and the midfielder played against Manchester United in the Champions League last season.

Judging by his display in the opening game, it’s easy to see why so many clubs, including United, have been keeping tabs on him. Golovin won’t be short of options if he continues to play well at the World Cup.

His cross set-up Yuri Gazinskiy to open the scoring after 12 minutes.

He then played a key role in the second goal. Golovin sprinted from midfield to win a loose ball before playing a pass to Roman Zobnin, who laid it off to Denis Cheryshev to double Russia’s lead before half-time.

He wasn’t finished yet either. Golovin set-up Russia’s third goal on the day, crossing for Artem Dzyuba to head home with 20 minutes to go.

Golovin then got the goal his performance deserved, netting in injury-time with a sweet free-kick.

He looks like a serious talent, even though he was playing against modest opposition, and will be central to Russia’s hopes as the World Cup progresses.

Football fans watching at home were very impressed.