FIFA World Cup: This is just the beginning, says Russia coach

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Moscow, June 15 (IANS) Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov has called for calm following his team’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in their opening World Cup Group A match.

The result on Thursday marked Russia’s first win in football’s showpiece event since a 0-2 defeat of Tunisia at the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea. It was also the biggest victory margin in the opening game of a World Cup since 1934, reports Efe.

Such was the magnitude of the result that Cherchesov had to temporarily leave his post-match news conference to take a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He asked me to share my congratulations with the team and told us to keep playing like this,” the coach said after returning three minutes later.

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When asked how the result made him and his team feel, Cherchesov replied: “It’s just the beginning. It could have been 1-1 and nothing would have changed.

“We need to get through the group. We won the first match in the (2017) Confederations Cup 2-0 but we didn’t get very far. This result shows that we are on the right track. But we should turn the page now and focus on what’s ahead.”

The team’s next fixture will be against Egypt on Tuesday and Cherchesov is expecting a tougher contest against the African side. He said he is still unsure whether star forward Mohamed Salah will play as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

“We will watch Egypt in the next match (against Uruguay on Friday),” Cherchesov said.

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“We don’t know if Salah is going to play or not. This is a big variable. But with or without him they are a very respectable team. With him of course, even more so. The next game against them will be more complex.”

Russia’s celebrations were tempered by an injury to influential midfielder Alan Dzagoev. The CSKA Moscow player was forced off in the first half with a suspected torn hamstring.

“We don’t know the complete picture considering how abruptly he stopped,” Cherchesov said.

“He was in severe pain and couldn’t continue running. His injury could be quite serious. He could miss the tournament. I don’t want to spread any incorrect news. Let’s see what the medics say. We would be very sad to lose him because we don’t have many players at his level,” he added.

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–IANS

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