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Russia’s World Cup plan of grit, determination and confidence has gotten the team to the quarter-finals. Stanislav Cherchesov says that this is not the end

Tite’s meet-the-press moments are very jovial affairs. A cordial homely atmosphere surrounds the Brazil boss. He will talk endlessly. Often, his answers will last a few minutes. Translations are long. He smiles a lot. Even signs some autographs. One of the Indian journalists requested a selfie with him and the Brazil coach smilingly obliged.

Now switch to Stanislav Cherchesov’s media-room. The Russian national team coach rarely smiles. His replies are short and to-the-point. Rather, points he wants to deliver. During our college-days, we used to learn, ‘the questions may be different, but answer is the same’. Attending Cherchesov’s pressers take you back to those good, old college days.

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The Russian coach has the perfect command over his team. He deals with the ‘nuances’, a word that is pronounced more often. The details of planning, a different kind of disciplinary approach, a sort of rigidity in what he believes, what he wants to preach.

Cherchesov sets up classes for his footballers the night before the match. He announces it regularly. “Tonight I’ll organise a theory class for our footballers, give advise to the players.” This is often important. He took one before the Spain match, made them understand the value of suffering and enjoying even those moments without the ball. The importance of keeping the shape intact. What he will teach before the Croatia match is yet to be disclosed, but it will be displayed at the Fisht Stadium, Sochi on Saturday.

There will definitely be no extra marking or covering for Luka Modric. He said repeatedly, that he did not think one player would be better than the team. Croatia, as a team, plays great football, he believes. He knows how to counter them with his team. What his side has to do is to follow his instructions religiously. They have to, because, that’s what is keeping their flag in a tournament they entered as the worst-ranked team.

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Like his team, Cherchesov is direct. There was a question on whether Russian players playing in their country is satisfactory for a coach or not. True, most of his footballers play in the Russian league which is not as famous or competitive as the European big leagues. That was the moment Cherchesov decided to go out of his crease.

“We have seen teams where there were Russian players playing outside the country and we won nothing. Here is a team with footballers playing in the Russian League and we are among the top eight countries in the World Cup. It’s not at all important where you are playing. What is important is at what level you are playing.” Bang on!

He is the mastermind behind this Russian team taking the world ‘fully prepared.” His team is playing a different tactical formation in every game, according to the merit of the opposition. In a European World Cup, he has chosen the right way. Skill is a factor you can sometimes do without, if required. Character can never be sacrificed.

Cherchesov’s team has that grit. Don’t be surprised if they advance even further. Cherchesov had already said that, “I hope the most important games are still ahead of us!”

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