Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov had to pause his post-match press conference following his side’s 5-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in the first match of the 2018 World Cup.
He took a phone call, and was asked who called and why.
It was Vladimir Putin.
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“It was the head of state,” Cherchesov said. “He asked me to share his thanks with the team for the performance that they put on and he asked me to keep playing like this.”
So goes the glory of a massive win from a host nation at the biggest tournament in the world, though surely he’ll be hoping the fiercely competitive Putin isn’t approaching the Uruguay and Egypt matches expecting 5-0 score lines for Sbornaya.
Twenty-two year old Aleksandr Golovin impressed big time with a goal and two assists, but it was a long-time hyped player who stoke the show.
Denis Cheryshev, 27, scored a brace in the win. He signed for Real Madrid at age 12, but went on to make just seven senior appearances with one goal before transferring to Villarreal.
“I’m happy for the team and for my own family. They’ve suffered so much with my injures and I think they’ve really deserved this,” he said. “I’m happy we’ve won but we shouldn’t stop there. Any moment you relax you can be knocked out so you have to keep working and looking forward. I would like to carry on at this level so that we succeed as a team.”