Friday 22 March 2019

From Russia with no love for 'Bond villain' Cherchesov

Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov. Photo:Tim Goode/Empics
Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov. Photo:Tim Goode/Empics

Sam Wallace

He had just watched his president, Vladimir Putin, take the stage at Fifa Congress to welcome the world to Russia and then across Moscow, Stanislas Cherchesov, the man with the hardest part of the 2018 World Cup delivery, was taking his seat at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The manager of what some say is the worst host team of any World Cup finals knows that if things go wrong against Saudi Arabia today and then Egypt five days later, Russia could be out of their own competition before it really starts.

'The Moscow Times' claimed this week that the current run of seven games without a win was the worst since 1912 and Cherchesov is the man in charge of changing that.

A moustachioed, bald Ossetian who won caps as a goalkeeper for the USSR, the Commonwealth of Independent States and then Russia, he looks like he has come straight out of central casting from any Cold War movie that featured typecast Soviet bad guys.


His sense of humour cuts through it all, intentionally mishearing the British radio reporter James Dodd introduce himself during yesterday's press conference and addressing him as "James Bond".

"You would be hard-pushed to get around the labyrinth of the Russian soul," Cherchesov replied cheerfully to a Danish reporter asking him to reflect on the indifferent attitude of the host nation. "It takes us a long time to start driving but when we put our foot on the pedal, we go a long way."

If Cherchesov is feeling pressure then he is not showing it, yet having had two years to corral his team, the injury problems of late have been catastrophic, including three cruciate ligament ruptures - to centre-backs Viktor Vasin and Georgiy Dzhikiya, as well as to the striker Aleksandr Kokorin.

The eve of tournament front-page headline in The Moscow Times - "Ageing and inexperienced: why Russia is doomed to fail" - pulled no punches. At least Cherchesov knows that the only way is up. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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