Putin’s support helps drive Russia on in World Cup



Posted Saturday, July 07, 2018 by PA

Putin’s support helps drive Russia on in World Cup

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov believes messages of support from president Vladimir Putin provide extra motivation for him and his players.

Putin attended the team’s World Cup opening win against Saudi Arabia and although he has not been present at their other matches he has been keeping in touch with Cherchesov.

“Putin has been calling me. He called me before the Spanish game (in the last 16), and of course when the president supports you it makes you comfortable and the players know this,” he said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final against Croatia.

“It is just an extra boost in terms of motivation.”

The hosts’ surprise progress to the quarter-final has ramped up the hopes of home fans but Cherchesov insists – aside from taking calls from the president – he is trying to steer clear of the hype.

“As a coach I am trying not to watch the TV, I don’t read papers, I am concentrating on my job. I believe that is the same for the players,” he added.

“I am trying not to get distracted. If I get a newspaper I will read a headline.

“Criticism is good but I believe it should be constructive, analytical criticism. You say people are euphoric: we, the people in the team, are not the people who should be euphoric.”

Russia have been boosted by the return of experienced midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who has not featured since a hamstring injury forced him off after 24 minutes of the 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is confident his side can handle the atmosphere as they take on the hosts for a place in the semi-finals.

Croatia will come up against a partisan crowd in Sochi on Saturday evening but Dalic said: “We cannot choose our opponents, hosts or otherwise. We are facing a huge game in the quarter-finals and it doesn’t matter who the opponents are.

“The only difference is they will have vociferous fans but every week our team plays with opposing fans howling at them. It shouldn’t be a problem.

“We will not be looking for excuses. We have to play our own game regardless of who is in the stands.”

Russia’s run to the quarter-finals, which included a shock defeat of Spain in the last round, has been unexpected and Croatia will go into the game as favourites, but Dalic is not underestimating the hosts.

He said: “We have a great deal of respect for them. You can’t reach the last eight of the World Cup if you don’t have quality.

“If you beat Spain, then you deserve your place among the eight best teams in the World Cup.”

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