There’s always pressure on the host nation.
So Russia’s thumping 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia was a pretty good way to silence the doubters, wasn’t it?
Expectation is naturally high amongst supporters of the host nation, despite Russia’s poor showings in major tournaments recently.
But Russian fans have genuine reason to be optimistic as they possess one of world’s most exciting young talents in their squad.
Aleksandr Golovin is the name on everyone’s lips after two assists and a delicious free kick against the Saudis.
Golovin, who turned 22 in May, was born in south-western Siberia in a town called Kaltan, where he spent his formative years playing futsal.
The young star had no choice but to play futsal, as there was only one regular-sized football pitch in Kaltan, with the harsh weather conditions often leaving it impossible to play on.
Golovin was given the nickname “Chick” because of his small build and baby-face looks, but the CSKA Moscow man shows no signs of weakness on the pitch.
According to ESPN, Golovin cites Zinedine Zidane and Alexey Smertin as his influences, the latter growing up in Barnaul, a town 300 kilometres from Golovin’s birthplace Kaltan.
Golovin joined CSKA when he was 16-years-old, after starting his youth career at a local side in Kaltan, before moving onto FC Novokuznetsk.
In 2013, he was part of the Russian side that won the Euro Under-17 Championships.
Two years later, Golovin was the focal point as Russia reached the final of the 2015 Euro Under-19s tournament.
Later that year, Golovin made his first appearance for Russia’s senior side, the wonderkid scored just 16 minutes after coming off the bench on his debut against Belarus.
Golovin continued his goal-scoring form in his second international game for Fabio Capello’s Russia, scoring against Lithuania.
The following season in 2015-16 would be when he would establish himself in the CSKA first team.
Golovin made 23 appearances and scored three goals, as he became a favourite of manager Leonid Slutsky, who insisted that wanting to work with the youngster prolonged his stay at CSKA.
“When Golovin appeared and started progressing very quickly, I put a lot of effort into him,” said Slutsky.
“I really felt for him, and only wanted to leave the club when he is a certain starter. It is like a child who doesn’t need his parents anymore,”
The following season, Golovin made 37 appearances, including six in the Champions League.
Golovin began to show his versatility, often being deployed as a deep-lying playmaker, before moving further forward in an attacking midfield/wide position.
The CSKA man is not a one-trick pony and also boasts strong defensive capabilities, with the ability to track back and tackle, before initiating counter-attacks.
Golovin suddenly became the centre of attention at CSKA, stealing the headlines from Alan Dzagoev, a player who was once tipped as the next star of Russian football.
Last season, Golovin impressed once again, helping CSKA to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.
The creative midfielder has been linked with a move to the Premier League, with rumours of Arsenal and Man United tracking him, both clubs he played against in Europe with CSKA.
Alongside Dragoev, the eyes of the host nation will be fixed on Golovin, with much expected of the youngster in Russia this summer.
Despite that thumping first win the hosts face a challenge to get past Uruguay and Russia in Group A.
Golovin isn’t a novice to the demands of senior tournament football either.
The in-demand midfielder featured heavily at both the Euros in 2016 and Confederations Cup last year.
In December 2016, Golovin signed a new deal with CSKA, extending his contract with the club till 2021.
Any potential suitors will have to stump up a large fee to tempt the Russian side into parting with their talent.
If he shines at the World Cup, his price will increase drastically.
He’s off to a pretty decent start.