Russia look to end winless run in opener

MOSCOW: Russia are ready to reverse a run of poor results and start the World Cup with victory over Saudi Arabia, coach Stanislav Cherchesov said on Wednesday.
After a practice session at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Cherchesov said all players were fit and had trained well ahead of Thursday’s opening match.
“All of our footballers have improved considerably. Today’s training session gave us food for thought,” he told reporters.
Asked to give a reason why Russia would win for the first time this year, the former keeper said: “Because we want it.”
Russia have not won in seven matches since beating South Korea in October, and Cherchesov, who took over after a dismal Euro 2016 campaign, has come in for mounting criticism.
In their final tune-up match, Russia drew 1-1 last week against Turkey. They have also lost this year to former champions Brazil and France in March, and 1-0 to Austria two weeks ago.
Despite this Cherchesov sees improvements, with the squad recharged following a week working at their base in Novogorsk outside Moscow.
“Our mood is very good, we are ready for work. We did a lot of work in Austria and reached a certain level, especially against Turkey,”he said.
“We have managed to recuperate and train at a different level.”
Spartak Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Samedov said the squad have been monitoring the Saudi team closely. The Saudis lost friendlies against Italy, Peru and narrowly 2-1 against world champions Germany on Friday.
“We watched that match and not only that one but also against Italy,” he said. “They are a technically minded team and they like to hold the ball. Our objective is to make sure they can’t keep the ball.” — dpa