Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov admits his team has ‘no options’ other than to win in its upcoming 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup match against Mexico.
Mexico needs just a point from the final Group A match to progress to the semifinal stage and ensure Russia becomes dependent on an unlikely New Zealand victory over European champions Portugal in St. Petersburg.
Only a Russia win will leave the team in control of its own fate and assure sure they will avoid the undistinguished honor of becoming the only Confederations Cup host to be eliminated in the group stage of the tournament.
“We have no options, the Mexicans do. On the one hand, this is good, but on the other, we need to understand what awaits us (in the game),” said Cherchesov, who was flanked by defender Viktor Vasin at a press conference at Kazan Arena on Friday.
“The third match is the decisive match, we will prepare for it as such. Mexico will have to do their job; we will have to focus on the job at hand. We respect the Mexicans, they are a good team and they play well. A good match awaits us,” he concluded.
Russia currently holds 63rd place in the official FIFA world rankings, whereas Mexico sits 46 places above in 17th place, but Cherchesov believes this only has meaning on paper.
“If the team is so much higher than us in rankings, on paper they are better than us. But like I said before the tournament: the only nation that aren’t continental champions are us, we are making a step forward,” Cherchesov said.
Russia crashed out of the 2016 UEFA European Championships and could only manage a draw when in need of a victory against Algeria in their final group game at the 2014 World Cup. However, Cherchesov believes the previous results have nothing to do with the current team.
“Firstly, this team is not the past team, and I am not the past trainer. Secondly, we are the home side, and, third, we will show (in the game),” said Russia’s coach.
“It is a different opponent, a different city, the only thing that remains the same is the tournament,” he added.
Vasin echoed his manager’s thoughts, claiming that he himself is focused on the game at hand and not on thinking about the possibility of failure.
“If I’m honest, I don’t think about it (losing). Now we’re just thinking about how to win the game,” the 28-year-old said.
Asked who he thinks will provide the bigger challenge – the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, or Mexican record scorer Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, both formerly of Manchester United – Vasin replied that there’s no comparison.
“I have only seen Javier Hernandez on television. Of course, there is no comparison to Ronaldo. Look at how many Ballon d’Ors they have each won,” the CSKA player said.
When asked which formation he will use – the closed defensive 5-4-1 approach, as versus Portugal, or an attacking open 4-4-2 formation, as versus New Zealand – Cherchesov simply replied “we need to win.”
Following the Portugal match, Cherchesov was photographed smiling into a camera at the stadium alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. The picture attracted some criticism, as the Russia manager was photographed with a member of the opposing team.
“I don’t see the problem with having a photograph with Ronaldo – is he an alien?” Cherchesov laconically replied.
Cherchesov - "Are you sure you don't want a Russian passport? Just say the word..." pic.twitter.com/N71Q1YVBFd— Danny Armstrong (@DannyWArmstrong) June 22, 2017
Tomorrow’s match will be the first meeting between Russia and Mexico in nearly a quarter of a century. The two sides last met 23 years ago in a friendly in February of 1994 in Oakland, California, with Russia coming away the winners, 4-1.
The home fans will be hoping for much of the same at the riverside stadium tomorrow night. It will be needed should Russia stand any chance of qualifying.