KEIR RADNEDGE in KAZAN: Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov dismissed out of hand a suggestion that he would shortly be out of a job after the Confederations Cup hosts tumbled out at the group stage after a 2-1 defeat by Mexico in the capital of Tatarstan.
Cherchesov, a former Russia goalkeeper, took over from Leonid Slutsky after the dismal first round exit from the finals of the European Championship in France last summer.
Like any hosts’ coach, his work had been handicapped because his team have not been playing competitive football, only friendly internationals. Hence the significance of the Confederations Cup in which Russia opened with a 2-0 win over New Zealand but then lost 1-0 to Portugal and 2-1 to the Mexicans.
Portugal and Mexico continue to the semi-finals while Russia’s players are heading home for a brief holiday before the start of the new domestic season.
Cherchesov put a brave, positive face on the defeat and elimination of his recast team which had been weakened by a number of injuries and featured an internationally inexperienced trio in central defence.
One of the first questions at the post-match conference was from a Russian journalist seeking a comment on speculation that first-round exit would force his departure.
Cherchesov said: “We have the most trendy journalists in Russia. They are called ‘Unnamed Sources’ and with these I will continue to work with pleasure so whoever dreamed up this information, please pass them my regards.”
Turning to the Mexico match, he said: “We knew we had to win so we tried to do everything we could to tip the scales. We did manage to score a early goal but, unfortunately, we concede a goal when we didn’t respond to a cross as we should have and then we had a player sent off and conceded another goal.
“Still, I must complement my team for doing as much as they could in the circumstances. I hope all the players will use the experience to grow and develop. I think they have won hearts and minds among our fans and given reasons for confidence going forward.
“I don’t think anybody here or in front of the television could have any doubts that the team played their hearts out. We managed to play some good football right from the start so that showed we are making steps in the right direction.
“What remains now is to continue to work as we have been and connect the sporting dots.”
Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio thought his team could have scored more goals if they had passed the ball around more accurately and he praised his players’ “resilience” for having recovered from conceding the first goal for a third successive time in the tournament.
Osorio added: “Reaching the semi-final after winning against the host nation in front of their own fans is an amazing success for Mexican football.”