Russian national team, 2018.Maksim Konstantinov/Global Look Press
World Cup 2018 goes on without Team Russia after its loss to Croatia in the quarterfinal game. “Now, the World Cup is just like a house party where the host says: ‘OK everyone, I’m going to sleep’ – and the other guys keep drinking in his kitchen,” goes a joke on Twitter.
The Russian national team, however, won’t be forgotten. They reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in history. Heck, post-Soviet Russia had never even made it to the kick-out stage. Here’s the list of reasons how Russia shocked the entire world.
Denis Cheryshev, Team Russia's best striker on the tournament. He scored in matches against Saudi Arabia (twice), Egypt, and Croatia.Yevgeniya Novozhenina/Sputnik
Analysts had their reason to mistrust head coach Stanislav Cherchesov and his team: after a chain of weak friendly matches, Russia was 70th in the FIFA national teams rating, the worst of 32 teams playing in the World Cup.
Cherchesov ignored the criticism. “I’m not a psychologist to comfort anyone,” he grumbled after yet another unsuccessful game, “You must believe in us.”
Almost no one did.
Then Russia annihilated Saudi Arabia – 5:0
The Saudis were helpless on the football field playing against Russia.Alexei Filippov/Sputnik
Russian footballers cheering after their match against Saudi Arabia.Ramil Sitdikov/Sputnik
Stanislav Cherchesov cheering up the fans.Reuters
In the World Cup, Cherchesov adopted tactics tailored to each opponent. “We used both high- and low-pressing with different teams; Cherchesov was very flexible in rotating the team and using different players,” wrote Alexander Dorsky, another sports journalist. “His moves during the World Cup were far more sophisticated than ever before; as if it was a completely different Cherchesov.”
Some people even suggest now that the poor results before the World Cup were the coach’s cunning trick. Of course, it’s hard to find out the truth. But one thing is clear – Cherchesov made history in Russian football and promised to do even better in 2022.
Russia’s footballers showed more than 100% of their skills on the field. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev took penalties from the Spaniards both with his arm and leg. Winger Denis Cheryshev scored 4 times – just as many as Cristiano Ronaldo. 38-year-old
Moreover, Russia wasn’t just winning – it was doing it with style. Take Artyom Dzyuba’s gesture – a military salute with one hand serving as a helmet.
(Cherchesov supported Dzyuba, making it kind of their thing.)
Or this iconic moment with Akinfeev using his “leg of God.” Yes, we mentioned it before, but it was so amazing that you must see it again
Russian fans in kokoshniks, Russia's national hats (well, sort of).Match TV
Team Russia's players carrying the banner "Играем за вас" ("We play for you"), addressed to the fans.Vitaly Belousov/Sputnik
“I’ve never seen such inner discipline and camaraderie within the team. Everyone was communicating with each other. This may be a lame reason to be happy, but unity is what our team lacked before,” Vladislav Voronin wrote on Sports.ru.
The players also felt united with the entire nation. After losing to Croatia, Artyom Dzyuba couldn’t help but cry, saying: “All our lives we wanted to make you proud.” And now the nation certainly is.
Team Russia before penalty series with Croatia. They lost but remain heroes for all Russian football fans.Alexander Kulebyakin/Global Look Press
There is only one Russian team that possibly could do better in the World Cup: this one.
If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
to our newsletter!
Get the week's best stories straight to your inbox