MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin, who craves sporting glory, got another taste Thursday in the opening match of the World Cup.

Russia ended a 16-year wait for victory in the tourney by routing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Group A, with the Russian president watching from the VIP box with the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, and the Saudi crown prince.

It was Russia’s first World Cup win since 2002 and raises the hope it can get past the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.

Yuri Gazinsky put Russia ahead with a header from Alexander Golovin’s cross when the Saudis failed to clear a corner in the 12th minute. Gazinsky charged forward to meet the ball as Saudi player Taisir Al-Jassam stumbled, leaving a simple finish.

Putin and Infantino smiled and shrugged as they sat next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Putin then reached over to shake the prince’s hand.

Substitute Denis Cheryshev soon scored the first of his two goals, chipping the ball over two Saudi defenders in the 43rd minute and shooting over goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf’s right side to make it 2-0. He later chipped the ball in during stoppage time for Russia’s fourth goal.

“I have never done anything like this,” Cheryshev said. “I already felt very happy when I knew I could come here with my squad, but I never, ever dreamed of something like this.”

After Cheryshev’s first goal, Artyom Dzyuba made an instant impact off the bench to make it 3-0 in the 71st with a header from Golovin’s cross. Golovin added the fifth from a free kick.

Following a lavish opening ceremony featuring British singer Robbie Williams, Putin welcomed visiting fans and promised Russia would be a “hospitable and friendly” host.

Putin has made no secret about his desire for success in international sports, especially at the Olympics. But high points for Russian athletes have been rare since the country’s image was tarnished by doping, with numerous Olympic medals stripped for drug use.

In a World Cup first, the video assistant referee system was available for the match between the tournament’s lowest-ranked teams, though it wasn’t used.

The Saudis, who last won a match at the World Cup in 1994, failed to get a shot on target.

SEPP BLATTER hopes to attend the Portugal-Morocco game and fulfill an invitation from Vladimir Putin to attend the World Cup.

Blatter’s spokesman said the former FIFA president plans to be in Moscow around June 20.

THE SECOND day of the World Cup will bring one of the most anticipated games of the opening round: Spain vs. Portugal in a match of teams trying to bring the focus back to soccer.

Spain is in chaos after firing its coach Wednesday. Portugal has been fending off distractions since its star, Cristiano Ronaldo, hinted at an upcoming announcement about his future.

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN, a key forward in France’s hopes, said he’s staying at Atletico Madrid, putting an end to widespread speculation he would leave to join a Spanish rival, Barcelona.

Griezmann said “I have decided to stay” at the end of a 45-minute television special called “The Decision,” broadcast on Spanish TV station Movistar Plus.

EGYPT GOALKEEPER Essam el-Hadary, 45, said he would be “the happiest person in the world” if he plays Friday in his team’s opening game against Uruguay.

El-Hadary hopes to become the oldest player to compete at a World Cup. Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was 43 when he set the record in 2014.