Russia coach Cherchesov in quest of SWC history

2018-05-28 19:29
Stanislav Cherchesov
Stanislav Cherchesov (Getty Images)

Moscow - Stanislav Cherchesov is hoping to make history at home by becoming the first coach to lead Russia to the knockout stage of a World Cup - with the pressure of the host nation on his shoulders.

Older fans watching the moustachioed 54-year-old pace the touchline might recognise Cherchesov as the man who kept goal for Russia in the 1990s.

The national team then was full of both promise and disappointment. Today, it is largely in disarray.

Cherchesov's men enter the tournament ranked 66th in the world - Russia's lowest in history - and without a win in their last five World Cup warmups.

They are decimated by injuries in defence and lacking a world-class forward.

A computer analysis by a top bank put the hosts' chances of lifting the trophy at close to nil.

So Cherchesov may be forgiven for sounding philosophical when assessing Russia's chances of making it out of the group stage of a World Cup for the first time since the Soviet era.

"We know we are not the favourites," he said after losing yet another player to injury in April.

"We want to be ourselves and see whether that will be enough, how far that takes us."

Cherchesov knows pressure.

He was Russia's goalkeeper when they were ranked in the top five by FIFA and facing Italy and Germany in Euro 96 in England.

The team came up short but was still considered a formidable foe.

Cherchesov's performance earned him a contract with Austria's Tirol Innsbruck. He finished a 22-year playing career in 2002 and almost immediately turned to coaching.

He managed Dynamo Moscow and Legia Warsaw before being entrusted with a national squad that was nursing its bruises from an early exit from Euro 2016.

"Pressure? Sometimes I don't understand you reporters. Are you asking about my blood pressure?" he joked with a German journalist last year.

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