In an interview with FIFA.com, Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov drew some conclusions from the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and revealed his expectations for the tournament next year.
FIFA.com: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay. Your first impressions after the draw?
Stanislav Cherchesov: I cannot say if the group’s good or bad for us yet, I have to gather information. The only evident advantage for us that I can see right now is that we will have tougher opponents with each game: first one – against a team from 4 Pot, last one – a game against a 2 Pot Team.
Russia will open the event against Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on 14 June. Is there anything you already know about the first opponent?
I won’t lie, I’ve never seen them play before. I just know that [Juan Antonio] Pizzi took charge of the team recently. In a couple of weeks I could probably tell you some more details.
What are your expectations for this World Cup?
Our goal is very clear, it didn’t change after the draw. We should qualify for the knockout stage and then we’ll see what’s going to happen.
Did the team gain confidence from the recent 3-3 draw with Spain, one of the best national teams in the world?
Both the result and, more importantly, the performance pleased the fans. They’ll head into the new year in a positive frame of mind, knowing that we’re on the right track. Everyone’s sense of optimism and hope have taken a boost after this game. We should give due credit to the Russian Football Union, who in a short period of time managed to find the team such top-level opponents as Argentina and Spain. Ignoring the FIFA Confederations Cup, we haven’t had any competitive matches this year, so we’ve tried to get the most out of the situation we’ve found ourselves in.
— #WorldCupDraw (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017
What key changes have taken place in the Russian national team since August 2016, when you took over the side?
There are two things to be mentioned. Firstly, we’ve brought the average age of the squad down. Our young players are not just receiving call-ups, they are actually playing in the starting line-up – guys like Daler Kuzyayev, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Golovin, Georgi Dzhikiya, Andrei Lunyov and the Miranchuk brothers. Secondly, we’ve changed our formation and…