Moscow (dpa) – Stanislav Cherchesov can work further on his legendary status if he manages to lead hosts Russia past Croatia on Saturday and into the World Cup semi-finals.
After all, this is the country of icon painting, and some ecstatic fans have also suggested to Moscow’s heritage commission that he deserves a statue for leading the team out of the group stage and then beyond mighty Spain in the last 16. That commission is headed by one Igor Woskressinsky who is having none of it – at least for now.
“It is much too early for that. Today someone is hailed, tomorrow he is cursed – that’s sport,” he told dpa. Cherchesov and his team definitely know both sides of the spectrum. Russia entered the tournament with a run of seven games without victory and at position 70 the worst-ranked of all 32 teams – and amid grave concern that they would not even survive a group deemed easy with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay.
However, they thrashed the Saudis 5-0 and beat Egypt 3-1 before being undeterred by a 3-0 loss against Uruguay to set up a meeting with the 2010 champions Spain which was won on penalties. “We haven’t been kidding anybody, just doing our job. To be good is one thing, to be good at the right time and place is another thing altogether,” Cherchesov said after the opening match. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was the hero Sunday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, and Cherchesov could probably relate as he also spent his playing career between the posts.
Successful ex-keeper coaches are still a rare breed in the sport, the most notable name being Italy’s Dino Zoff, who won the World Cup in 1982 as a player and was Euro 2000 runner-up as a coach. Cherchesov’s CV is not quite as impressive but in a country where heroes are happily worshipped he is on the right path. He is already an honorary citizen in his home town of Alagir, and Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated him by phone on the opening-match win at the perfect time – during the post-match news conference..
Cherchesov has kept his feet firmly on the ground, taking all the blame if necessary and fully supporting his players. His moustache and calmness on the sideline have reached cult status, just as his deadpan answers at news conferences.
“Emotions are simple. You show them when you direct the team. Now I am thinking only about the next game. These are not very sophisticated emotions,” he said when asked why he wasn’t as ecstatic as the players after the Spain game.
The 54-year-old had no easy path to success. Born as the youngest of five siblings, the other four being sisters, he left his North Ossetia region at early age, and via Spartak Moscow played in Germany at Dynamo Dresden and Austria at Tirol Innsbruck – his coach there now Germany boss Joachim Loew.
He started his coaching career 2004 in Austria and became national team coach in 2016, facing the daunting task of turning an ailing group into a competitive side to delight the home fans.
His contract is only until the end of the World Cup but Cherchesov himself believes that he will got an extension. Some critics have said he is a good tactician but has not improved the skills of the Sbornaya. But that is secondary for now, as all that counts is another perfect game plan against Croatia. / Posted on 5 July 2018 – 12:49am / Last updated on 5 July 2018 – 01:43am / By Wolfgang Jung, dpa