ST PETERSBURG • Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov hopes the best is yet to come for the World Cup hosts in the last 16 as their place in the knockout stages was confirmed yesterday.
Russia eased past Egypt 3-1, despite Mohamed Salah's return on Tuesday. And the Pharaohs were eliminated alongside Saudi Arabia yesterday after the Asians fell 1-0 to Uruguay in Rostov, with the result also ensuring that world No. 70 Russia can continue to dream.
The lowest-ranked nation have confounded expectations and have eight goals in two matches, although an own goal by Egypt captain Ahmed Fathi was needed to open the floodgates.
Russia showed they have the quality to trouble more fancied nations, with Denis Cheryshev scoring in the 59th minute for his third goal of the Cup.
Three minutes later, Artem Dzyuba demonstrated quick feet to free himself inside the area before slotting home.
Salah recorded Egypt's first goal at a World Cup in 28 years from the penalty spot after he had been hauled down 17 minutes from time but it was merely a consolation.
"I hope there are many more to come," said Cherchesov when asked if he had enjoyed the best day of his life.
Russia conclude their group stage play against two-time world champions Uruguay on Monday, with top spot in Group A at stake.
Cherchesov expects the South Americans to be tougher opponents. "They are on a different level," the 54-year-old said.
Russian media had predicted doom and gloom when their team entered the Cup with a record seven-game winless streak.
Their provisional World Cup squad's build-up was also marred by investigation into possible anti-doping rule violations.
Fifa closed the case last month due to "insufficient evidence" of wrongdoing. But yesterday, former head of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov said urine samples from defender Ruslan Kambolov revealing banned anti-inflammatory dexamethasone were "definitely swapped" for clean ones in June 2015, public broadcaster ARD reported.
Kambolov was later dropped from the squad, although Russia said his removal was due to a calf injury suffered while playing with Rubin Kazan.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS