Cherchesov calm ahead of Russia's historic campaign
Stanislav Cherchesov has an ironic take on his role in a history-making
moment at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USAT: "Well, what do you know!
You concede one goal at the World Cup and make it into the record books:
the oldest player at the tournament scored against me!"
The new head coach of Russia enjoyed a rich playing career as a goalkeeper
and was named in the squad to represent his country at two World Cups
in 1994 and 2002. He only actually featured in one match, but what an
encounter it was.
Russia's 6-1 group-stage thrashing of Cameroon at USA 1994 will forever
be remembered thanks to two records: Oleg Salenko's five goals in a single
game has never been bettered at the tournament, while the Indomitable
Lions' solitary strike was provided by 42-year-old Roger Milla, who to
this day remains the oldest goalscorer at a World Cup. Nevertheless, Cherchesov
is able to look back at this 'achievement' with humour.
"It's probably the only goal I let in that I wasn't angry about,"
the goalkeeper-turned-manager explained to FIFA.com. "Look at the
mark it left in history! Also, the goal didn't have an effect on the result."
The victory against Cameroon is arguably Russia's best-ever performance
at a World Cup in the post-Soviet era. "We had nothing to lose and
we gave everything we had," Cherchesov recalled. "We had a decent
team back then, but the draw didn't do us any favours at all.
"In the same group as us were the champions-to-be Brazil and Sweden,
who ended up in third place. I'm convinced we would have made it to the
knockout rounds had there been just one slightly weaker team in the group."
There is hope in Russia that the magic on show that day at the Stanford
Stadium comes back in time for the upcoming tournament held on home soil.
In this respect, Stanislav Cherchesov has been entrusted with one of the
highest honours in the coaching world: preparing his national team for
a World Cup on home soil.
"My first memories of the World Cup are from 1982, which is still
my favourite tournament. I can remember Brazil's wonderful [2-1] victory
in their opening game against the Soviet Union, as well as [Rinat] Dasayev's
amazing [goalkeeping] feats. It's fantastic that the World Cup is coming
to Russia. The eyes of the whole world will be on our country. The most
important thing is that all the infrastructure - stadiums, airports and
so on - will continue to be used after the tournament."
Yet even faced with this massive task, the new Russia boss is not feeling
any unnecessary nerves. "Do I feel any heightened sense of responsibility?
If I start thinking in those terms, nothing good will come of it. Coaching
is my job and I need to approach it as I would any other - calmly and
Prophetic chat with Kerzhakov
Born in Alagir in North Ossetia, Cherchesov's journey to head coach of
his country has been a long one. However, as revealed by Russia striker
Aleksandr Kerzhakov, even back at the 2002 World Cup the then 38-year-old
goalkeeper predicted that one day he would take on the role of national-team
"I did have that chat with Sasha (Kerzhakov): he was 19 and I was
38," said Cherchesov. "I was the oldest player in the squad
and thinking about the future. The man upstairs clearly must have heard
In the years since, Russia have failed to make it out of the group stages
at two UEFA EUROs and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Cherchesov has his
own analysis of the team's underwhelming displays at big tournaments.
"First of all, you need to position yourselves correctly. We need
to understand what we're capable of and what we're not capable of. You
can only demand from a footballer what he's able to do. I was at two World
Cups and I know how important it is. If you're demanding too much from
the players, then problems and conflicts will start."
So, what impression should Russia leave on supporters at the upcoming
World Cup? "We'd like everyone to see that we give everything we
have for the cause and that everyone in the team cares, is fully focused
and wants to show what they can do. Everything has to start from a positive
mindset, you won't get far with negativity."
Crossing paths with Low again
Between now and the World Cup in 2018, Russia's only official matches
will be at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. What aims should the host
nation set for the Tournament of Champions, the dress rehearsal for Russia
"By nature, I'm an all-or-nothing person. The Olympic spirit that
it's all about taking part is not for me. If you're competing at a tournament,
you should be setting the bar high," he said. "Ultimately, you
always have a chance of winning. It's a separate issue, on the other hand,
that right now we don't have a team at that level. Our first obstacle
is to build a new team, prepare for our first friendlies and only then
can we start thinking about objectives."
There is a chance that Cherchesov will come across an old acquaintance
at the Confederations Cup: Germany coach Joachim Low. After playing for
Spartak Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow, as well as a stint at Dynamo Dresden
in Germany, the former keeper set himself up in Austria and quickly became
one of the star players for Tirol Innsbruck, where he met and formed a
bond with the future 2014 World Cup-winning coach.
"Low joined us during a difficult period when the club was experiencing
financial issues. We played for free pretty much for a whole season and
still won the Austrian Bundesliga. Joachim was very young for a coach
but impressed with his positive outlook and new way of thinking. Of course,
we made his task easier because the team had already been built."
And to this day, Cherchesov is still regularly in touch with his Germany
counterpart. "Look, I called him an hour ago," he said, taking
out his mobile phone where Low's name shows up on the recent-calls list.
"I hope to see him again at a coaches' conference in September."
What is more, after that, there is every possibility the old friends will
next cross paths as foes next year, come the Confederations Cup.
fifa.com, 22 Aug 2016