LONDON  - Russia on Saturday thumped Argentina 8-0 as the seven-a-side football competition got under way at the London Paralympics and they looked to upgrade their silver from four years ago to gold.

Aleksandr Kuligin, Lasha Murvanadze and Andrei Kuvaev scored two goals apiece, while Eduard Romanov and Viacheslav Larionov also netted, as Avtandil Baramidze's side staked their claim to challenge defending champions Ukraine.

The scoreline could have been wider if it were not for the efforts of Argentina goalkeeper Gustavo Nahuelquin.

Baramidze paid tribute to the South Americans, saying they were a "very good team" but "a little bit confused in the second half" and were unable to cope with Russia's organisation, technique and tactics. Russia on Monday meet the Netherlands in their second match, with the Dutch out to bounce back from a 4-1 reverse to Beijing bronze medallists Iran. But Kuligin refused to say whether they were favourites to win gold, after Iran team coach Masoud Ammari tipped a repeat of the 2008 final, which saw Ukraine triumph 2-1. "I can't say whether we will win the gold medal but I can promise that every game we will perform to the best of our ability and we will feel comfortable at every game," the Russian. Our strong point is attack and that is what we will do," the 21-year-old forward said. Seven-a-side football is for players with cerebral palsy and is similar to the able-bodied game, although the playing surface is smaller, there are no offsides and players can take throw-ins with one hand.

In Saturday's other matches, Ukraine take on the United States while Britain play Brazil.

The host nation's team features Martin Sinclair, whose brother, Scott, on Friday made a £6 million move to English Premier League champions Manchester City from Swansea City. Scott Sinclair also played for the Great Britain team in the Olympics.

Everton captain Phil Neville on Friday sent a good luck message to the squad, with team member Michael Barker a former youth player at Goodison Park who was in the same age category as former Toffees striker Wayne Rooney.