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Five of the Best World Cup opening games of all time

Dave Burin | 12 June 2018

It’s Russia v Saudi Arabia this time around

The World Cup is just a few days away, with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in the curtain-raiser in Moscow.

Ahead of that clash, the Coral News Team have been flicking through the archives to look back at some of the best opening games through the years.

There’s a shock Senegal triumph, Scottish heartbreak and much more…

Argentina 1-3 West Germany (1958)

This was just the second World Cup ever to be televised, and viewers of the 1958 opener in Malmo were treated to a cracking game.

The West Germans had won the tournament four years earlier in Switzerland, while Argentina were appearing at their first World Cup since 1934. But it was La Albiceleste who took a third-minute lead, with Oreste Corbatta scoring from a tight angle.

But it was to be the West Germans’ day. Skilful winger Helmut Rahn netted twice, either side of a sliding tap-in from the boot of prolific hitman Uwe Seeler.

Italy 2-1 France (1978)

It’s hard to imagine now, but France had failed to reach successive World Cups before 1978. Opponents Italy had suffered a shock group stage exit in 1974 – so the pressure was on for both sides to finally deliver some joy.

Les Bleus roared into life, with Didier Six crossing for Bernard Lacombe to nod home in the opening minute. But the Azzurri – who went on to reach the semi-finals – recovered in style.

A goalmouth scramble allowed a young Paolo Rossi to poach an equaliser, before Renato Zaccarelli finished off a superb team goal just after half-time.

Brazil 2-1 Scotland (1998)

Craig Brown’s Scotland gave one of the great Brazil teams a real test in the 1998 opener – with a cruel twist of fate eventually giving Selecao victory.

Cesar Sampaio broke the deadlock with a fifth-minute header. But any notion that this would be a romp for the South Americans were put to bed before half-time, when John Collins equalised from the penalty spot.

In the end, sheer luck won it for the Brazilians. Dunga’s shot was parried by Jim Leighton, but bounced straight off Tom Boyd and into the net. And it didn’t get any better for the Scots, who finished bottom of Group A.

France 0-1 Senegal (2002)

The 2002 opener remains one of the great World Cup upsets. Holders France headed into the tournament expected to repeat their heroics against a Senegal side largely made up of players from French football’s less glamorous clubs.

El Hadji Diouf’s innocuous cross created the only goal on 30 minutes, with Fabian Barthez dropping a clanger to allow Papa Bouba Diop to bundle the ball home.

Despite plenty of pressure, Les Bleus couldn’t find an equaliser. They went on to finish bottom of the group, while Senegal reached the quarter-finals.

Germany 4-2 Costa Rica (2006)

The 2006 edition hit the ground running, with the highest scoring World Cup opener in the competition’s history. Philip Lahm’s thundering effort put Germany 1-0 up in the sixth minute, and the game continued in breathless fashion.

Paolo Wanchope grabbed a 12th-minute equaliser on the break, before a trademark tap-in from Miroslaw Klose restored the hosts’ lead five minutes later.

The then-Werder Bremen hitman doubled their lead after the break, before another Wanchope goal set up a nervy finish. A long-range scorcher from Torsten Frings finally settled things three minutes from time.

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