Posted: 6/15/2018


          What an opening game in Moscow on Thursday. I have been to many and starting with a 0-0 bore draw at Wembley between England and Uruguay in 1966 there have not been many memorable first nighters.

        In a battle between the two lowest ranked teams in this year's competition it was NO CONTEST !. Adidas 5 v Nike 0. The home team wore thethree Stripes and the opposition wore the Swoosh. Adidas will outsell their opposition due to fans buying their replica jerseys, and NIke, who sell more shoes are not expecting fans to wear their footy boots to walk to the stadiums. Afterwards it will be a different matter with players.

        I had the privilege of meeting both famous founders. ADI DASSLER in Bavaria with our mutual friend Dettmar Cramer in the mid 70's and Bill Bowerman in 1964 at the Olympic village track in Tokyo. He was the coach of the USA track & field team and gave me his business card as head coach at University of Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Oregon.  He told me how he had found lightweight Tiger shoes and was going to take a bunch back home to sell through his small company Blue Ribbon Sports.At the time Adidas and Puma were the major brands.  A few years later with one of his athletes Phil Knight he founded NIKE...The rest is history, Go to their HQ in Beaverton, OR and you will drive through the gates on Bill Bowerman Drive.

       Anyway, back to the 5-0 thrashing in the Luzhniki in front of 84,000 fans including the two dictators, flanked either side of FIFA President Gianni Infantino. On his left was Vladimir Putin in a smart suit and on his right was Crown Prince  Mohammed bin Salman(MbS)  in silken robes.. Their shrugs, handshakes and chatter after the first goal went in were priceless.

     Mercifully we had a short 15 minute Opening Ceremony but Putin went on and on with his welcoming speech. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) have the best idea. Opening speeches by heads of state are limited to nine words." I Declare the Games of the X? Olympiade Open, then sit down.

       It was the highest opening day score since May 27th 1934 at the Stadio Nacionale in Rome when hosts Italy downed USA 7-1. The USA were out and returned home by ship. Luckily the Saudis have two more goup games in front of them versus Egypt with Mo Salah and Uruguay who possess skill and bite( with Luis Suarez. The Saudis played in four concecutive final in Usa 1994, France 1998, Japan & Korea 2002 and Germany 2006.

 I was in Lens in 1998 when thye lost 1-0 to Denmark and then they lost 4-0 to France in St-Dennis  after which they promptly sacked coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and went out after tying South Africa 2-2 in Bordeaux.. Four years later they lost 8-0 to Germany. They have had 10 coached in 12 years and three recently.  Edgardo Bauzu was removed and replcyed by Dutchman Bert van Marwijk who got them qualified for Russia 2018. He left in a dispute and was replaced by Spaniard Juan Antonio Pizzi. Will he last more thn two matches?  Meanwhile Van Marwicjk got a short term contract with The Socceroos owith $760,00 US. He promptly hired EIGHT Dutch assistants with his own money.

         We had some brilliant goals from the Russians, who had not won in the last 7 outings. Yuri Gazinsky opened the scored with a set piece header after 12 minutes followed by a smashing drive by substitute Denis Cheryshev who scored a second in 90 +1 miutes to make it 4-0.  Artem Dzyuba in 71st and finally Alekandr Golovin in 90+4 complete the route. Golovin of CSKA Moscow was the star of the show.  The front page of the Moscow Times that morning had declared "DOOMED TO FAILURE".In six previous tournament as RUSSIA they have failed to get out of their group.

        The green uniformed visitors will probably not be beheaded or whipped, but they were SPANKED IN PUBLIC.and the match did not need VAR intervention and was well officiated by the tall Argentinian Nestor Pitana.