Cam­paign

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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

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