Russia moved to the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of the World Cup after the host nation beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in St Petersburg.


After narrowly losing out against Uruguay in their first match, The Pharaohs had no option than to win against the host nation. A draw would not have been enough considering the fact that Russia won by 5 goals in their first match. A defeat to Egypt means they have hopes slimmer than the eye of a needle. Egypt need to hope that Saudi Arabia narrowly defeat Uruguay and then Russia defeat Uruguay. In all this, Egypt will also need to beat Saudi Arabia convincingly. Certainly, that may be too much to hope for.


So far, Senegal are the only African team to have recorded a victory. There was a lot of optimism surrounding the African countries before the tournament, however, most of them have underperformed. The nature of the defeats are calls for concern. Morocco gifted an own goal to Iran. Nigeria gifted an own goal to Croatia. Egypt gifted an own goal to Russia. All these own goals were the first goal in the match and it is fair to say that they played a crucial role in influencing the result.


In the opening match of the World Cup, Russia were handed a major blow as their playmaker Alan Dzagoev injured his hamstring halfway through the first half. His injury saw the introduction of Villareal man, Cheryshev. This meant that Golovin moved behind the striker and Cheryshev went out wide. Russia won 5-0 with Cheryshev scoring two and Golovin scoring one. With Dzagoev out for the rest of the group stages, coach Cherchesov stuck to the same XI and it was successful against Egypt. Cheryshev got himself a goal and Golovin completed 5 key passes. Russia seem to be flying high without Dzagoev at the moment.


A 5-0 victory against Saudi Arabia was not enough to put a smile on the face of the Russian coach. However, one would have thought a win against Salah’s Egypt and qualification from the group stage all but confirmed, Cherchesov would have at least smiled. Maybe he has told his players he will only smile once they lift the trophy and that is what is keeping Russia going.


The was a lot of pessimism surrounding the Russians at the beginning of the World Cup. A lot of fans had no hope in the national team as they described this team as the worst Russian team they had seen in years. Cherchesov remained upbeat about his ambition and was determined to silence his critics. So far, he has been successful as Russia top Group A with 6 points and 8 goals. Remember in 2010 Spain won the World Cup scoring 8 goals the whole tournament? Russia have matched that in just two games. They look compact and very potent in attack, and with a World Cup full of surprises who knows how far the Russians can go.

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