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Kerzhakov: Scoring at a World Cup is an incomparable feeling

Aleksandr Kerzhakov
Aleksandr Kerzhakov. Photo: zimbio.com

'After the 2018 World Cup, I'd like there to be photos of every player in the Russian national team up on one of these stands,' mused aloud the country's all-time leading scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov on visiting the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.

As the European qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaT kick off in September, the hosts are not only waiting with bated breath for the tournament, but also dreaming of how they might actually get their hands on world football's most coveted trophy. Kerzhakov, who spent the spring on loan with Swiss side Zurich from Zenit Saint Petersburg, had the opportunity to see the trophy in question from close quarters at the FIFA Museum.

'My only chance to hold it could be in 2018. However, I'd be really happy if, in the near future, I'm able to see the Russian captain lift this trophy above his head,' said the 33-year-old forward, who hails from the city of Kingisepp in the Leningrad region.

The boots of the great players from the 1950s was what most impressed Kerzhakov in the museum. 'I imagine what the stars of the 1950s like Pele and Garrincha, who produced such miracles even back then, would have been able to do if they'd had the boots we wear today. The reverse is true as well: I'm not sure how many goals I'd have scored with Pele's boots on. Ten times fewer, definitely.'

An incomparable feeling

Now back at Zenit Saint Petersburg, and not just because he is the national team's all-time top scorer with 30 goals. He is one of only two current Russian footballers who know what it is like to score a goal at the FIFA World Cup. At Brazil 2014, he came off the bench in the 71st minute against Korea Republic and took just three minutes to find the net and level the scores at 1-1.

'Scoring at a World Cup is an incomparable feeling. When you're playing in one of the tournament's matches, it's the only official game that's taking place in the world at that time. This is a huge responsibility and a huge gift, when the eyes of the entire world are watching you play.

"I was happy and proud of myself and my country, as well as for my relatives and the people close to me. I'm happy to have written myself into history as a player who managed to score a World Cup goal. I think this goal will be replayed more than once by my children and, God willing, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also haven't given up hope that I'll score more than one and increase my strike haul at home in Russia in 2018.'

If Kerzhakov were to make the Russian line-up in 2018, then it would be his third World Cup - something no other player in the current squad could rival. 'I only played seven minutes in our final game at the World Cup in 2002. That competition passed me by in a blur. I wasn't really aware of what was happening and had only broken into the national team one month before the tournament.'

A team to be proud of

It is not only the players who are excitedly anticipating the World Cup in 2018, but the rest of the nation too. 'Everyone in Russia has waited for this event for an extremely long time. I'm 100 per cent sure that we deserve to be hosting this World Cup because of our desire, commitment and generous Russian soul. I'm sure all the players and fans who come to the competition will just be amazed both by the organisation and our country in general.'

Kerzhakov insisted Russia has a lot to offer to fans from all over the world, saying: 'Our cuisine is marvelous and suits everyone's tastes. Every footballer who has ever come to us, from whichever country, has always eaten Russian food. What more could you want? We have amazing variety in our architecture, ranging from St. Petersburg to the old town in Moscow. There are also the Kremlins in Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan. We have a blend of different cultures here. Every single person will discover something of their own, plus something Russian.'

By the time the 2018 World Cup comes around, Kerzhakov will be 35, but he still hopes to be a part of the squad. 'I think that we'll be aiming high, just like every fan will. It will be tough to win the World Cup but it's also difficult to leave behind some good memories, so that after the competition your fans can say, 'Yes, we're happy that this team represented us'.'

fifa.com, 23 Aug 2016

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