Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov has opened up exclusively to RT about the mood of the team following their exit from the FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup.
Russia were beaten twice in their three games in the tournament, registering only one win against New Zealand in the opening game and crashing out at the group stages. However, Cherchesov says there are positives to be taken from the team’s performances, and that ‘Sbornaya’ prepared as well as they could for the Confed Cup.
“Again it’s the same national side, the same team. One moment they are booed, the next they are praised. So our preparations provided a litmus test for us, and the players understand that being booed one moment and being praised the next simply doesn’t go,” the 53-year-old coach said.
Russia played four friendlies in the lead-up to the Confed Cup. Despite losing their opening friendly to the Ivory Coast in Krasnodar, Cherchesov’s men beat Hungary away from home, while spirited draws versus respected opposition in Belgium and Chile provided confidence ahead of the tournament.
“Before the Ivory Coast, they are a strong team for one thing, and secondly and we prepared for two weeks, and it often goes that in the first game it doesn’t come off for us in such a short space of time,” Cherchesov said.
“In the second match it was always better, as was the case with Belgium, who are a stronger side than Ivory Coast. We played better and it was no coincidence that we played to a 3-3 draw.
“In the current context, we valued our meeting fully, and the preparation of the team was completely different. We worked on our physical, psychological and tactical aspects, we simply had more time, which means you can exert a greater influence on the players and the team on the whole,” he said.
Despite not advancing from the group stage of the Confederations Cup, the first host nation to do so in the competition’s current format, Cherchesov’s team were praised by Russian fans and the media.
Striker Fedor Smolov’s tears when the team were knocked out 2-1 by Mexico in Kazan endeared him to the nation.
Although some found it disappointing that the team registered their only victory against New Zealand on the opening day of the tournament, many commented there were positives to take form their efforts.
Former Russia manager Guus Hiddink, who lead ‘Sbornaya’ to the semifinals of the Euro 2008 Championships, commented that the drive of the Russian side was unprecedented, something Cherchesov was pleased to hear.
“I read the interview with (former Russia manager) Guus Hiddink, who we all know well. His words hold a lot of worth but after all the team were much more intense (in the Confederations Cup) than in previous games and the previous national team,” said Cherchesov.
“There was no one situation at the time of either of the games that we went off course, we continued to play how we played and tried to reach our targets after the red card (for Yury Zhirkov against Mexico) and after missed chances. For that we showed a determined attitude and character in every game.
“But I will say again, at such a high level, to show that character is a vital component. And the rest you need to add and in that respect we will make corrections. The players understand there was too little of one thing at that level in terms of tactics, but in a psychological sense, the tournament gave us a lot.”
A mistake by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the game against Mexico allowed Hirving Lozano to head home the goal that sent Russia out of the tournament. Later in the game, Zhirkov, one of the more senior members of the Russian side, was sent off for an apparent elbow.
Nevertheless, Cherchesov believes the character of the team shone through and many positives can be taken from an otherwise disappointing showing.
“There were two phases of disappointment - the first was directly after the final whistle, which confirmed we didn't do what we set out to. The second was when I went into the dressing room and saw a team that gave every bit of themselves. It was a real gut-wrencher, the tears of Fedor Smolov were proof of that,” Cherchesov said.
“I calmed the team down, thanked them for their good work, after such tournaments, especially after such games, we try and talk less, because emotions are still raw. I thanked them again, I told them one month has flown by like one day.
“Then when the players had already gone back to the hotel - some stayed in Kazan, some flew somewhere else, some didn’t fly with us - everyone came to the hotel, we spoke again for five minutes, thanked everyone again for the game and then went our separate ways. Now they are all with their respective teams.
“Already a few players I rang with a few questions I needed an answer to, the players themselves were ringing, sometimes they need direct advice.
“Thus, we don’t lose contact, but we try to talk less, because they are with their teams, some have gone to new teams, some have new coaches in an old team, so now they need to concentrate on those targets that the club has set them. Then afterwards we will resume the work that we do every day,” Cherchesov said.
Russia will now go into their home 2018 World Cup without any further competitive matches, having qualified for the tournament as host nation.