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Russian football team ‘enters new era’ with Nations League match against Turkey — coach

This will be the first international fixture for the Russian national team after the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Stanislav Cherchesov Vladimir Gerdo/TASS
Stanislav Cherchesov
© Vladimir Gerdo/TASS

TRABZON /Turkey/, September 6. /TASS/. The Russian national football team is entering ‘a new era’ with an away match against Turkey in the country’s northeastern city of Trabzon on Friday, Stanislav Cherchesov, the head coach of the Russian national squad, said on Thursday.

Russia and Turkey are meeting on Friday at the over 43,000-seat capacity Senol Gunes Stadium in Trabzon as part of the inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament. The match is scheduled to kick off at 9:45 p.m. local time (18:45 GMT) and will be the first international fixture for the Russian national team after the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"There is a great difference if we compare it [the upcoming match] with the World Cup," Cherchesov told a news conference in Trabzon before the match on Friday. "Back then we had a month of training to get ready, while we had a couple of days only as of now."

"We are missing several players on the squad due to various reasons," the Russian coach continued. "We believe in all the footballers that we have summoned for this match, and only the best will be on the starting line-up."

"We will be flying the same national flag and will have to uphold the level that we attained at the World Cup," Cherchesov said. "Tomorrow, we are entering a new era and new tasks are ahead of us."

This summer, Russia hosted its first-ever FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a remarkable opening show at Luzhniki Stadium on the evening of June 14 and ended with a spectacular final match, played also at the Luzhniki Stadium, where France confidently defeated Croatia 4-2 to win the much-coveted World Cup Trophy.

The national football team of hosts Russia managed to make it to the quarterfinals stage of this world championship, where Croatia edged them out on a 4-3 penalty shootout win on July 7 at the Fisht Arena in Sochi.

The head coach of the Russian national football squad also said that the team is currently facing numerous tasks in view of players’ reshuffles and the search for the new game strategy.

"We currently need the result and the new team," Cherchesov said. "We will see who is capable of different things as the [Nations League] tournament proceeds."

Cherchesov also said that appointing striker Artyom Dzyuba as the captain of the national team for next two matches was the only option since the player enjoys solid support in the squad. Previous captain of the Russian national football team, goalkeeper Igor Akenfeev, will not be playing in the scheduled two fixtures as he took a time to undergo medical treatments.

"It was very logical [to appoint Dzyuba] since we have no Akenfeev on the roster," Cherchesov said. "Artyom [Dzyuba] is our most experienced player and he deserves to lead the team on the field during the next game."

Russia-based Medialogy monitoring and analysis company announced after the 2018 FIFA World Cup in mid-July that Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Russia’s Artyom Dzyuba, Igor Akenfeev made up the top three of the most frequently mentioned footballers by the Russian media during the world championship.

Besides the UEFA Nations League match against Turkey this week, the Russian national team is also scheduled to play a friendly fixture against the Czech Republic on September 10 in the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

The Nations League is a new biennial football tournament for men’s national teams of all the 55-member states of the European governing football body, UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations).

The tournament’s participants have been divided into four divisions or Leagues, namely from League A, which enlists the strongest teams, to League D. Each League has been divided into groups and the Russian national team was placed into Group 2 of the League B.

The Russian team shares its group with the national squads of Turkey and Sweden. All teams in the group will have to play two matches against each other (away and at home) and the best team in the group will be eventually promoted to League A, while the 3rd place team will be demoted to League C.

The Nations League format was adopted at the UEFA Congress in Astana on March 27, 2014, and the tournament was aimed at replacing international friendly football fixtures, which sports experts often deemed to be useless.

There are currently 12 teams in League A, 12 teams in League B, 15 teams in League C, and 16 teams in League D. Four nations, finishing in the top of each League, will also qualify for the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup.

The inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament kicks off this month. The teams finishing in the top of their Leagues will be promoted to League A, which will have the national squads competing next June in the Nations League Finals. Next summer’s tournament will include two semifinals and one final to decide which team becomes the UEFA Nations League champion.

The winner of the new tournament will be awarded with a sterling-silver trophy representing all 55-member nations of the UEFA.