Russia talk a good game ahead of World Cup clash against Saudi Arabia

Stanislav Cherchesov is a man under pressure as the big kick-off nears.
Updated 13 June 2018
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Russia talk a good game ahead of World Cup clash against Saudi Arabia

  • Hosts under a lot of pressure to get a good result in front of their fans in Moscow.
  • Stanislav Cherchesov says mood is good in the camp ahead of Saudi Arabia opener.

MOSCOW: Deep in the bowels of the cavernous Luzhniki Stadium, drowned out by distorted feedback, Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov suggested that such is the pressurized atmosphere ahead of today’s World Cup opening match, even his microphone could not withstand it.
Russia arrive at their own tournament as the lowest-ranked side of the 32 teams and without a win in nine international matches. Having qualified as hosts, their last victory came in October against South Korea and they have since lost to Argentina, Brazil, France and Austria while drawing with Iran, Spain and, most recently, Turkey. 
Today, against Saudi Arabia in Moscow, they are aiming to avoid becoming the first host nation to lose a tournament curtain-raiser. And if Cherchesov, who has been at the helm for two years, was not already aware of the expectations upon his side, Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this week made it quite clear. 
Yet while scathing criticism from local press has forced some Russian players to close their social media accounts and former players — including former Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis — have described the team as one of the worst ever, Cherchesov cut a jovial figure 24 hours before the big kick-off. 
“Our mood is very good. We are ready for work. We did a lot of work back in Austria and have reached a good level. Against Turkey, we showed the kind of game we want to play,” the 54-year-old said. 
“Every coach has to accept criticism. I don’t read anything and stay focused on my job. We are trying to do what we’re doing — the fact we are getting criticised, that’s a natural thing in the world we live in today. We want to do everything we can to turn criticism into positive feedback and we have everything we need to do that.”
Cherchesov revealed his team have been trying to relax by playing Trivial Pursuit, but the most pressing question is whether they are capable of beating a Saudi Arabia team appearing at a world finals for the first time since 2006. Aleksandr Samedov, the team’s veteran right-back, said he and his teammates watched the Green Falcons’ most recent
defeats to Italy and Germany and are well-prepared. Now all he hopes is his compatriots show more support.
“(Saudi Arabia) are a very technically-minded team,” said Samedov, who spent Tuesday analyzing the Saudi
attack and planned last night to do similar with the opponents’ defence.
“They like to hold the ball and our objective is not to let them keep it, which is what we will try to do. We would all love it if there could be a bit more positive spirit around our team, but we have to contribute and generate this positivity, which would then emanate through the press. We will try to demonstrate this at the World Cup.”
Cherchesov confirmed that he has a full squad to choose from with
players carrying minor injuries
having managed to recover, adding that he believed his team had “improved considerably” since last year’s
Confederations Cup, where they won their opening match 2-0 against New Zealand but lost to Portugal and Mexico to crash out at the group stage.


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

Updated 18 June 2018
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.