Russia ensured they began the tournament in the best possible fashion by emphatically beating Group A rivals Saudi Arabia 5-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium, with two goal for former Real Madrid winger Denis Cheryshev.
During Russia’s post-match press conference, while man-of-the-match Cheryshev was taking questions from journalists, his manager Cherchesov briefly left the top table holding a phone to his ear.
When he returned, Cherchesov was asked who had called him and the 54-year-old revealed it was indeed Putin, the Russian president.
“It was the head of state,” he said. “He asked me to share his thanks with the team for the performance that they put on and he asked me to keep playing like this.”
Russia begin this World Cup as the lowest-ranked international side in the world, according to Fifa’s official standings, and ended a seven-game winless run with this victory.
When playfully asked whether his team had lulled their opponents into a false sense of security, Cherchesov said: “To kid many people is very difficult, even for such masters as my players.
“We haven’t been kidding anybody, we’ve been doing our job with a clear understanding of what is expected of us.
“We are not getting ahead of ourselves,” he added. “We saw that we are on the right track but we should forget this game and concentrate on the next one.”
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