Host Russia exited the 2018 World Cup on Saturday when it lost to Croatia, 4-3, in a shootout after their quarterfinal match in Sochi ended in a 2-2 tie.
Russia came into the tournament with a seven-game losing streak and was ranked 70th in the world, the lowest of any team in the
Just to make the knockout stage was considered a surprise, and it then produced one of the surprises of the tournament when it beat Spain on penalty kicks in the round of
The Russians came back from trailing 2-1 in overtime when Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes
evened the score in the 115th minute, but he was one of two Russians to miss in the
Still, the Sbornaya had captured the imagination of a nation and respect of the soccer world.
“I believe that the keyword is how we leave," Russia head coach
said. "It’s better to leave when you feel pride. We don’t have any chances to win this Cup and, of course, we are sad. But we showed our worth.”
Cherchesov, who hails from the North Ossetia region in the Caucasus, went from the butt of jokes on television shows and in social media to a national hero. One TV host called on Russian men to
grow victory mustaches like his facial hair. Before and after the game, Russian president Vladimir Putin
“Vladimir Putin talked to me during the day and he called
me right now, and congratulated me on a very good game,” Cherchesov said. “We told him we were disappointed. He said that we should keep our eyes open and take the next steps.”
During their run to the quarterfinals -- the farthest Russia has gotten in four trips to the finals -- the gruff Cherchesov tried to keep his players from getting carried away with the
excitement of their run.
“We Russians like extremes but let’s not go to extremes,” Cherchesov said. “The media can be euphoric, not us. Reminding ourselves
about Spain is a good story but let’s look forward. Criticism is good. We should have our eyes open and our ears ready and being praised all the time is bad. At the same time, the criticism
should be analytical. It should not be to humiliate.”
After the loss to Croatia, Cherchesov said Russia should use the success at the World Cup as a jumping board.
“From the first second I put together this team," he said, "I knew where it was heading. We have succeeded, I believe, but it’s time to take a step forward.”