Moscow (AFP) – Russia’s World Cup coach Stanislav Cherchesov believes the hosts just have to relax and be themselves if they want to win before expectant fans and Vladimir Putin.
The pressure will be on Russia to perform when they open the football final against Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14.
Putin has already said he was hoping to see the team lift a seemingly unlikely trophy on home ground. The Russian leader is expected to be in attendance when the first World Cup to reach eastern Europe kicks off.
Cherchesov said on Tuesday that he and his squad also only had victory on their mind.
“We know that we are not the favourites, but this does not mean anything,” he said in a Russian television interview.
“We want to be ourselves and then see whether that will be enough, how far that takes us.”
The Russia coach said players felt dejected after losing to Mexico in the semi-final of last year’s Confederations Cup — a World Cup warmup held in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
“I have never seen such disappointed football players before,” Cherchesov said of the locker room after the Mexico match.
“We wanted to win the Confederations Cup from the start in order to know the taste of victory.”
Russia are coming off a miserable Euro 2016 in which they were knocked out in the group stage after losing to Wales 3-0 in their third and final game.
Former national squad coach Leonid Slutsky confessed shortly afterwards that he and the players agreed things could not get much worse.
“We all said in one voice: ‘We are shit’,” Slutsky said.
Cherchesov was asked whether he discussed that game and conversation when he took over the Russia job from Slutsky immediately after the tournament.
“Should the national team players been told that they are ‘shit’? No,” Cherchesov said.
“To be honest, I do not even know what to say about that. We never had such a conversation.”