Cherchesov, mastermind of Russia's World Cup run

Stanislav Cherchesov, who has brought in the stubbornness of his Soviet past to his job and the team, refuses to drop his guard.

Stanislav Cherchesov has ensured a seamless translation in the team’s play in every game.   -  Getty Images

Russia’s meteoric rise this World Cup has taken the global football fraternity by surprise with pundits doffing their hats to manager Stanislav Cherchesov, who has ensured a seamless translation in the team’s play in every game. The host started the tournament with a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, with Aleksandr Golovin creating trouble with his free roving role, but Russia’s biggest triumph came in its 5-4 win over Spain in the last-16.

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Curbing the attacking instincts of his side, the coach’s 3-5-2 formation provided Russia with extra cushioning in the midfield, which stopped Spain from carving out chances despite controlling the majority of the game. “I admit that Spain is better than us in many ways and we had to choose tactics keeping that in mind. If we had four defenders, we would have conceded space in the midfield. My players are victorious because they followed my strategy,” the former national team goalkeeper said. “I really had to persuade my players that this was the only way out. We don’t like this kind of structure but this is what we had to do with three defenders. I spoke with every player individually more than I had in the past and I had to explain to them why, where and what.”

With his number on the speed dial of the Russian President Vladimir Putin – he had called the manager during his post-match presentation after the Saudi game and also before and after the round-of-16 clash – Cherchesov is yet to feel comfortable with all the attention he is drawing. “You don't exactly get used to this. The main thing is that we bring joy not only to the fans but also to the leaders. And the fact that there is interest in us is quite inspiring,” he said.

No matter the results, Cherchesov, who has brought in the stubbornness of his Soviet past to his job and the team, refuses to drop his guard. “You show your emotions on the pitch when you are directing the team in the field. When it's over, I just think about the next game,” he said. “We know that Croatia has some great players. Let’s not get more specific at the moment. We need to study them and we will do that over the next few days.”

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