It took only 12 minutes for Russia to begin making a mockery of their ranking as the worst team in the competition when Yury Gazinskiy opened the scoring, and substitute Denis Cheryshev added a skilful second shortly before half time.
Indeed, it was the subs who had the biggest say on the match as Artem Dzyuba increased Russia's lead 89 seconds after coming on, before a second for Cheryshev and an Aleksandr Golovin free kick in stoppage time capped off a memorable opening game.
Find out how all of the action unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.
Precisely 1432 days have passed since Mario Gotze broke Argentinian hearts to hand Germany the World Cup trophy in Brazil, and now we are nearly ready to do it all over again as the biggest sporting spectacle in the world returns!
It may not be the most glamorous opening fixture, but there is something perversely attractive about having the competition's two lowest-ranked teams going head to head in the curtain-raiser as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
This World Cup has already thrown up some incredible drama with Spain sacking their manager on the eve of the tournament, and hopefully there will be plenty more to come over the next month.
So forget about Robbie Williams - sit back, relax and let me entertain you (see what I did there?) for the next few hours as the 21st edition of the World Cup gets underway!
Well, the biggest question mark surrounding the Russian selection was regarding their defensive issues; manager Stanislav Cherchesov has chopped and changed his backline on numerous occasions during the buildup to this tournament, and has not been helped by injuries to Dzhikiya and Vasin either.
Russia experimented with a back three in their final warm-up game, but it looks as though they will play with four at the back this afternoon.
Ignashevich is the most capped player in Russia's history with 122 international appearances to his name, and today he will become the oldest player to represent the country at a World Cup, surpassing the legendary Lev Yashin's record.
Yuri Zhirkov - a former Chelsea player - is another veteran of Russia's run to the European Championship semi-finals 10 years ago, although it looks as though he will be deployed at left-back this afternoon, having spent most of his time further forward during the buildup to the tournament.
Further forward Fyodor Smolov is the main goal threat and the top scorer in the Russian squad, and there will be more pressure on the shoulders of both him and Artem Dzyuba - who misses out on a start today - following an injury to Alexander Kokorin.
No player scored more goals than Al-Sahlawi during qualification - and that goes for any section including South America and Europe - with the striker netting 16 times, although eight of those did come in two matches against Timor-Leste.
It was thought that Fahad Al-Muwallad might challenge him for a place up front - and the 23-year-old is clearly highly regarded by the Saudis having already racked up 45 caps despite his tender years - but it is no great surprise to see Al-Sahlawi get the nod.
The veteran has 135 caps for his country and captains the team, and considering that Saudi Arabia are expected to spend the vast majority of their three group games on the back foot, that duo is likely to be key.
Al-Jassim netted in Saudi Arabia's final warm-up game - against Germany, no less - so could be one to watch in terms of goals from midfield today.
Russia's hopes on that front do not look too rosy, though. They are the lowest-ranked team in the competition and their first point of call is to avoid becoming the least successful host nation of all time.
Today's opener has been kind to them - and it could be argued that the group draw overall has been kind, with none of the world's top 10 teams making it into Group A, but Egypt and Uruguay, whom Russia will face in their next two matches, both boast genuine world-class players.
However, while it may be harsh to have them placed 70th - below the likes of Burkina Faso, Mali and the Cape Verde Islands - this is still far from a vintage batch of Russian players and the standard of the national team has been on a steady decline since reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2008.
In Russia's defence, they have played some difficult opposition in that time - including Argentina, Spain, Brazil and France in succession, and even managing a draw against Spain - but their two warm-up games immediately prior to this summer's tournament have seen them lose to Austria and draw with Turkey, neither of whom qualified.
Worryingly, that opening win against New Zealand - a 2-0 triumph - is their most recent clean sheet on the international stage, going 11 games since then without keeping the opposition at bay.
Russia have been eliminated in the group stages of all three World Cups under their own flag, and come into this match winless in their last five World Cup outings having been eliminated from Brazil 2014 without winning a game. Indeed, their only two World Cup wins as an independent nation have both come against African opposition - against Cameroon in 1994 and Tunisia in 2002.
Russia will be hoping that the home crowd can help them restore some of those football glory days, and there is precedent for the suggestion. Over the past 20 years, four of the six host nations have reached at least the semi-finals, including South Korea's memorable run against all the odds in 2002.
Saudi will also be up against it to make it into the knockout rounds of this tournament, and even so much as a point might be considered a decent return against the host nation and two teams boasting some of the best players in the world.
The Saudis were the joint-highest scorers in their qualifying section - led by Al-Sahlawi - and beat Australia to an automatic qualifying position, so they are very much here on merit and may be able to shock a few people this summer.
A 3-0 defeat to Peru will have been a concern, but narrow 2-1 defeats at the hands of Italy and Germany - both of whom have lifted this trophy four times - will have offered some encouragement despite also ending in a loss.
Indeed, their last win over a team that will also be participating in this summer's competition was the once which clinched their place in Russia - a 1-0 victory over the already-qualified Japan - since when they have lost four successive such games, conceding 12 goals and scoring just once in the process.
Saudi Arabia did actually begin their warm-up campaign with back-to-back wins over Algeria and Greece, but those three defeats on the bounce since have dampened the enthusiasm.
Pizzi initially missed out on the World Cup when his Chile side slipped from third to sixth on the final day of South American qualifying, leading him to step down. Meanwhile, Bert van Marwijk - who is now in charge of Australia - led Suadi Arabia to their first World Cup since 2006 but then stepped down after failing to agree a new contract.
Van Marwijk was replaced by Edgardo Bauza, who lasted just five matches, before Pizzi was drafted in in November, as the third Saudi coach in as many months.
It is a nation that has failed to win any of their last 10 World Cup matches, though, losing eight since a memorable win over Belgium in 1994. The nadir came in 2002, when they finished bottom of their group with no goals and no points, having also lost 8-0 to Germany along the way.
These opening matches are so often cautious affairs, and the fact that it involves the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition is unlikely to help that. Russia's home advantage should give them the slight edge they need to make a winning start, though.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Russia 1-0 Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia ran out 4-2 winners on that occasion, coming from behind in Al Khobar and giving a taste of what was to come en route to the last 16 of the World Cup the following year, but this will be their first trip to Russia.
If you need to brush up further on your knowledge of the host nation, though, then we have an in-depth team preview for them right here.
Vladimir Putin has given his welcome, as has FIFA president Gianni Infantino, and we're now all set for the national anthems!
RUSSIA STARTING XI: Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Dzagoev, Samedov, Golovin; Smolov
SAUDI ARABIA STARTING XI: Al-Maiouf; Alburayk, Os.Hawsawi, Om. Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani; Otayf, Al-Dawsari, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassam; Al-Shehri, Al-Sahlawi
Saudi Arabia get the 2018 World Cup underway!
It has taken just 12 minutes, and it is an unlikely scorer too as Gazinskiy scores his first international goal - and what a time to get it! Golovin swings a lovely cross into the box and Gazinskiy rises highest in the area to guide a well-cushioned header into the far corner!
Golovin's pinpoint cross finds Gazinsky at the back post unmarked and he duly heads Russia in front pic.twitter.com/1R4VFVaJn0— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 14, 2018
Saudi Arabia once again find themselves exposed at the back and the ball is played across to Golovin, whose pass into the path of an unmarked Cheryshev is a little underhit. However, the Villarreal midfielder clips the ball past two sliding defenders before lashing his finish beyond the keeper.
It is a stunning piece of skill, and an emphatic finish too. Russia are in dreamland!
It is a deserved lead for the hosts too, who have dominated for the majority of that first half and could have been even further ahead. Saudi Arabia, for their part, have been very poor and offered very little.
Golovin put a fine cross into the box which Gazinskiy met with a header after his marker had slipped. It was a perfect connection across the face of goal, nestling into the far corner.
It came at the end of a sweeping counter-attack from the hosts and at one stage it looked as though the chance might be gone, but Cheryshev did brilliantly to keep it alive and score.
Cheryshev keeps a cool head in the box, turns two Saudi defenders and the substitute powers the ball high into the net pic.twitter.com/vH7o2sFla8— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 14, 2018
Dzagoev's departure did have an impact on Russia's control over the game too, which is why that strike from Cheryshev was so important just before half time.
Golovin is the creator again as he swings his cross into the box, although Dzyuba really doesn't have to do much to peel away from his marker and plant a downward header into the bottom corner.
GOAL! Instant impact as substitute Dzyuba rises highest to meet Golovin's whipped cross with a strong header pic.twitter.com/WgiRtlUoHN— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 14, 2018
Dzyuba knocks the ball down to Cheryshev, who takes it in his stride before impudently flicking his finish into the top corner with the outside of his boot from just inside the area. Brilliant strike.
Golovin lines up the free kick and fires a brilliant dipping effort inside the post and past the keeper!
Granted, the opposition were poor and no-one will be getting ahead of themselves by suggesting that Russia may go all the way, but this victory will give them huge confidence going into their remaining Group A games against Egypt and Uruguay.
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's game as Russia run riot in the World Cup opener, thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Moscow. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too! There is plenty more World Cup action coming your way tomorrow, so check back in with us for that too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!