SAMARA • Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov was in bullish mood ahead of their final Group A showdown with Uruguay today, dismissing suggestions that his men are under pressure because of their status as World Cup hosts.
With both teams having already qualified for the last 16, today's match will decide the group winners. A draw will ensure Russia will finish as group winners due to their superior goal difference.
"They keep asking me about pressure but this is a medical term," Cherchesov told reporters.
"We are professional players who are preparing for our game. This is the World Cup and the team must be in the optimum condition. We are a team and we must do our job."
Despite securing Russia's first last-16 appearance since 1986, when they qualified as the Soviet Union, Cherchesov does not want his players to drop their guard against Uruguay.
"We are preparing for this game exactly the same way," he said.
GROUP A PERMUTATIONS
Saudi Arabia v Egypt: Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch223, 10pm
Uruguay v Russia: Ch141 & Ch222, 10pm
Qualified for last 16. Top group if they avoid defeat by Uruguay.
Qualified for last 16. Must beat Russia to top group, because of their inferior goal difference.
"Qualification doesn't mean a thing. Those players who are better prepared will play. Our medical team will also advise us. No special changes are expected."
Perhaps the secret to the Russians' success thus far is not just their ability on the ball but good old-fashioned industry.
According to Fifa's statistics, Russia have, by a startling margin, covered more ground than any other team, with their opening 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia seeing them run a collective 118km.
The second-highest distance covered in the first round was 112km by Egypt in their defeat by Uruguay.
In their second match, a 3-1 victory over Egypt, Russia took their total to more than 233km, around 8km more than any other two-match team, with workmanlike Australia their nearest challengers.
Russia also lead the way for number of sprints, with 824 in their two matches, while Argentina completed only 604 in their draw with Iceland and defeat by Croatia.
But, during a tense press conference, Cherchesov bristled when asked about the number of routine drug tests his team have faced and whether the distances covered were unnatural for a team ranked 70th in the Fifa rankings.
The topic came up after Russian doctor Eduard Bezuglov said the hosts had given over 300 testing samples to Fifa and other governing bodies - a number he said was twice as many as the England team.
Although Cherchesov refused to answer the question on doping tests, he did respond to the query on distance covered.
"If nobody has noticed anything other than runs and sprints then we will have to do something else," he said, smiling. "There is motivation to perform at the World Cup with the public's support."
Whoever qualifies atop Group A will play the runners-up from Group B. Portugal, Spain and Iran all still stand a chance of qualifying from Group B.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS