MOSCOW: Host Russia’s elimination from the Confederations Cup “should not cast a shadow on the festivities,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, in charge of sport matters in the country, said after Russia’s decisive loss to Mexico on Saturday.
Russia won only one of its three matches, against modest New Zealand, during the group stage of the Confed Cup, a test run for next year’s World Cup.
But Mutko was determined to take the positives from the situation.
“Look at the cheering other teams receive, for instance the fantastic Portugal or team Mexico with its stars,” Mutko said.
“We are hosting a great football festival, and we will carry on with the world-class event.”
Russia was seen as an outsider ahead of the tournament after a dismal performance at last year’s European Championships. However, despite its losses this time around, the team was at least competitive in every match.
A solid win over the All Whites was followed by a narrow loss to Portugal. That set up Saturday’s do-or-die clash with Mexico in Kazan.
Alexander Samedov’s opening goal had the home fans hopeful of a place in the last four but Nestor Araujo and Hirving Lozano killed the dream.
The Russian team is relatively young and has a lot of room to progress before the World Cup. The defeat to Mexico was characterised by poor finishing and sloppy defending in a match they controlled until falling behind.
“Victories are important in sport, but on the whole we will be moving forward,” Mutko said. “I am totally convinced that we have a team and that it will make progress since the guys have a huge desire to play for it.
“We will be moving ahead. I pointed out that we had done a good job,” the deputy prime minister said, thanking the Russian fans for their broad support of both the national team and the tournament in general.
Coach Stanislav Cherchesov, who assumed the post a month after the Euro 2016 disappointment, said he would continue to work at his goal of getting Russia into the semi-finals during next year’s World Cup.
“I will be happy to continue my work, which will be even better than it is now,” Cherchesov said.
“We are the only team at the Confed Cup that has not won any other tournament to qualify, but we will do our best,” he told dpa earlier this month. – dpa