Putin critical of Russia’s soccer team ahead of World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Russia’s national soccer team is often attacked for poor performances but players will be paying special attention to their latest critic.

With the 2018 World Cup hosts struggling on the field, Vladimir Putin isn’t amused.

The Russian president said “to be honest, we haven’t seen beautiful play from the national team for a long time.”

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Speaking two days after Russia lost 2-1 to Qatar in a friendly, Putin’s remarks were reported by state news agencies on Saturday.

Russia has won just one of its last 10 games and crashed out of this summer’s European Championship without winning a game. Despite all this, the team has been set a target of reaching the semifinals in 2018.

Russia’s next game is a friendly against Romania on Tuesday in Grozny, the capital of the Russian region of Chechnya.