June 14, 2018 / 8:14 PM / 6 days ago

After 5-0 heaven, Russia coach wants feet on ground

MOSCOW (Reuters) - It will not be easy after running out 5-0 winners in the World Cup opener after years of doubts and setbacks, but Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov wants his Russia side to forget Thursday’s win over Saudi Arabia.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Russia vs Saudi Arabia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov celebrates their fifth goal scored by Aleksandr Golovin REUTERS/Carl Recine

“Today showed we are on the right track but we need to forget about this game ... and concentrate on the next step,” he told reporters, thinking ahead to Tuesday against Egypt before a showdown with Group A favorites Uruguay in 10 days time.

A first-half hamstring injury to Alan Dzagoev had a silver lining on the night as substitute Denis Cheryshev came on to score twice, but the coach also could not hide his fear the creative midfielder could be out for the rest of the tournament.

Medical tests on Friday will tell, Cherchesov said, yet the way Dzagoev pulled up suddenly in extreme pain did not look good for the CSKA Moscow player, three days before his 28th birthday.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Russia vs Saudi Arabia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov celebrates their fifth goal scored by Aleksandr Golovin REUTERS/Carl Recine

Looking relaxed after taking a congratulatory phone call from President Vladimir Putin, who watched in delight in the stands, Cherchesov stressed that Russia, the weakest team in the competition by FIFA ranking, have to do more than thump the second weakest to rid themselves of the under-achiever label.

There was, he said, still scope to fail to get out of the group but he also had a warning to the doubters who have watched his automatic qualifiers flounder through a diet of friendlies.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Russia vs Saudi Arabia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov celebrates their fourth goal scored by Denis Cheryshev REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Russia, he explained, have been preparing for their moment of history in their home World Cup. “To be good is one thing,” he told reporters. “But to be good at the right time in the right place is quite another.”

He pushed back some sniping from Saudi Arabia’s Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizza who pronounced himself unsurprised and unimpressed by the hosts.

His tactics might have been familiar, Cherchesov said, but the performance was tighter, more disciplined and more mature than his side had shown before.

Midfielder Yuri Zhirkov said: “We played well, controlled the ball. We need to keep doing that ... Cherchesov says that we did well, that it’s the first game and we need to keep going.”

Egypt, especially with returning Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, would be a different test, Cherchesov said.

Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Ferber; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Ian Chadband

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