KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: Denis Cheryshev paid tribute to his family who had kept encouraging him through an injury-scarred career after scoring two superb substitutes’s goals in Russia’s 5-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in the Opening Match of the World Cup finals.
The 27-year-old man of the match joined the game midway through the first hlf only because playmaker Alan Dzagoev suffered a hamstring injury which threatens to rule him out of the entire tournament.
First he danced through a forest of legs to jab home Russia’s second goal from close range in the 42nd minute then he scored with an even better strike from the left-hand corner of the penalty box in second-half stoppage time.
Cheryshev, who plays for Spain’s Villarreal after failing to match his teenage potential at Real Madrid, said: “There are no words to express what I’m feeling. I’m absolutely happy for both the team but also for my own family who have suffered so much with my injuries. I think they deserved this result.
“There was no right for me to be angry or upset at being left out of the team at the start. I was extremely happy just to be in the squad of 23 and now I would like to continue at such a level that we continue to win as a team.
“We shouldn’t be satisfied to stop here. At any moment, when you relax, you can be caught out so we must keep working and keep pushing.”
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said that picking Cheryshev as Dzagev’s substitute was a logical step because he knew the player was ready for the challenge. However he feared that Dzagoev might be ruled out of the entire tournament which would be a blow because “we because we don’t have many players of his level.”
Coach Cherchesov revealed that President Vladimir Putin, who had opened the tournament and watched from his private box, had called immediately after the final whistle.
Cherchesov said: “The head of state who called me with his congratulations. He asked me to share his thanks with the team for their performance and to keep playing like this.”
This is a challenge in itself. As Cherchesov said: “To be good is one thing, to be good at the right place and time is different altogether.
“We will need to forget this victory but forget such a result in an Opening Game is not something easy to do. So we will give the players a chance to celebrate and then tomorrow we will draw conclusions. Don’t be surprised if there are reshuffles because every game is different and we have to win again.”
Saudi coach Juan Antonio Pizzi had no excuses for the manner in which his team crumbled the longer the game went on.
The Saudi federation has sacked coaches during a tournament before now but the Argentinian shrugged over questions about whether he was concerned for his future.
He said: “There are some things which are out of my control but I fully trust that we can improve for the next match.
“We haven’t played as we had planned and we will improve but it will take us some time. We have to remain positive. We have not done what we came here to do and the Russians won by a landslide but without doing much that we had not expected.”