Stanislav Cherchesov said that his tactics – and the way his players executed them – were the key to Russia’s surprise last 16 victory over Spain.
After Artem Dzyuba’s penalty had cancelled out the own goal from Sergei Ignashevich that opened the scoring, Russia spent most of the game on the defensive, maintaining a rigid structure that Spain’s tiki-taka was powerless to penetrate.
After a game of few chances, Russia triumphed in their first ever World Cup penalty shootout, with Igor Akinfeev saving twice from Koke and Iago Aspas.
Cherchesov claimed that his players took some persuading to use defensive tactics, but praised them for doing such a professional job.
“I really had to persuade [my players] that this was the only way out,” said the Russia manager, as quoted by the Guardian.
“We don’t like this kind of structure but this is what we had to do with three defenders. Thank god my footballers understood what I was telling them. They trusted me.
“I spoke with every player individually more than I had in the past and I had to explain to them why, where, what, and it has worked out as you see.
“I believe that my players have been victorious because they have adhered to my strategy.”
The result is Russia’s first win at the knockout stages of a major tournament since Euro 2008, and it leaves the bottom half of the draw wide open for a surrpise finalist. Russia will face Croatia or Denmark in the quarter finals.
“It has never been this way that so many favourites lose and go out,” Cherchesov said. “This is football. What can you say?”