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Cherchesov: Second-half performance was much better

Russia national team started a new edition of UEFA Nations League 2020/21 with a home win against Serbia 3-1.

Stanislav Cherchesov, head coach of the Russia national football team provided his comments after the match:

— It is important to win, especially when you play at home after an unprecedented break when the national team did not play any matches for a long time and everybody looked forward to seeing it again. There were no spectators in the stands but we could feel millions of people watching us on TV. That was a hard but well-deserved win.

— Were you surprised by Serbia’s formation with three central defenders?

— That was an unpleasant surprise, yes. We were preparing to Serbia’s traditional formation with four defenders. We did not perform very well during the first 25 minutes as we were trying to prompt certain rearrangements to the squad. We made more recommendations during the interval and told our guys where to move. So our performance was much better in the second half – both in terms of the offensive and counter-attacks.

— How difficult was the match emotionally and physically?

— Fans always push us forward when we play home matches. So I warned our squad that they must support and provide guidance to each other. Of course, the coaching staff did their best to encourage the team too. But we provided some criticism as well. Most importantly, we have won the match, collected three points and are now bound to play Hungary that won the opening match as well.

— Were you considering adding a second striker or substituting Dzyuba?

— No, we were not. Changing our system in such a difficult match would be a mistake. And of course, team captain shall stay on the pitch.

— Was it a surprise that Tadic did not play against Karavaev?

— Maybe Karavaev was to play against Tadic instead? We decided not to tempt fate as Kudryashov did not play any official matches for a long time and Karavaev is in a very good shape. He played quite well and scored a brilliant goal. That was not an easy walk for him at times, but his overall performance was very good nonetheless.

— Was it a difficult decision to choose the goalkeeper? Why did you prefer Shunin?

— Shunin appeared in the last official match against San Marino last year and started this season confidently as well. Dynamo is his home stadium and we did not have any doubts about him, which was testified by the match.

— How severe are the injuries suffered by Semenov and Bakaev?

— It is impossible to predict for now. They will both undergo MRI tomorrow. They did not report any spasms or pains so far but we will check them anyway. They are both travelling with us to Hungary. We have a couple more days to take the decision.

— How are you going to prepare to the match against Hungary? What do you know about their team?

 We know them well enough and their match against Turkey today is going to be more informative than matches we had watched already. We played against Hungary before the Confederations Cup in 2017 but they made numerous changes and added some young talented players since then. So we have a tough match ahead.