The World Cup has kicked off and the host nation Russia have got their campaign off to the perfect start.
There were doubts about their quality and they will persist, but they managed to convincingly beat Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Although it won’t be their toughest test, it will give the squad confidence and they will now to be a more difficult proposition in their remaining group matches.
Alan Dzagoev has been the star player for Russia in recent years, but he suffered an injury in the first-half and that provided a platform for the next big hope of the nation to star.
Aleksandr Golovin has previously been linked with the likes of Arsenal in the past and he showed why he is highly regarded with a man-of-the-match performance against Saudi Arabia.
The 22-year-old looked a cut above on the pitch and was the player that the world was talking about when the match ended. He contributed a goal and two assists in an all-action midfield display.
Every time he got onto the ball, he looked comfortable and wanted to play positive passes to move Russia up the pitch. It would have been easy for Golovin to hide, but he stepped up and at his age, that should be praised.
During the match, he made five key passes underlining the creativity that he offered on the pitch.
His pass success rate of 71% is a little disappointing considering the quality of the opposition, but it does show that he was looking to be positive when he had the ball. Golovin will be looking to be less wasteful with possession in the final two group games.
His free-kick goal was nicely struck, but a better goalkeeper would have been able to stop it from going in. The goal and two assists will take the headlines, but Golovin’s work rate and tenacity stood out on Thursday. The 22-year-old midfielder won four tackles and made a further three interceptions.
It is becoming more important for midfielders to be able to thrive in both halves of the pitch and the Russian international showed that he can.
It is too soon to get too excited about Golovin, as the opposition were weak. Saudi Arabia didn’t offer much in possession and often overplayed when they had the ball.
Despite Russia being considered one of the weaker nations, they were far superior to their Group A opposition and a better assessment of the midfielder can be made during the next two group games.
That said, Golovin caught the attention on Thursday and clubs that have previously registered an interest will have taken notice. Arsenal are one of those clubs and they are undergoing a period of transition under Unai Emery.
If the Russian midfielder can deliver similar performances against Egypt and Uruguay, the interest in him will quickly pick up. He will be the main man for the hosts over the next couple of weeks and if he does the business, the Gunners could be ready to reignite their interest.