Alarms bells ring in Russia with 2018 World Cup looming

Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:56pm EST
 
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By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Alarm bells are ringing loudly in Russia 18 months before the country hosts the World Cup after their team crashed to a morale-shattering loss to a Qatar side ranked 91st in the world.

Russia endured a dismal European Championship this year in France where violent rampages by their fans and the team's inept performances on the pitch made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Just when Russian fans thought things could not get any worse, they have – with humbling defeats by Costa Rica and Qatar, the country that will host the 2022 World Cup.

"There is no need to dramatize the situation and make damning predictions," Vyacheslav Koloskov, the honorary president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), told Reuters by telephone.

With next year's Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup drawing ever closer, Russia is facing one of its biggest footballing crises since gaining independence from the Soviet Union.

Head coach Stanislav Cherchesov was handed the task of leading the Russian team to their home World Cup. His predecessor Leonid Slutskiy declined the offer of a new contract after Russia finished bottom of their group in the European Championship with one point from three games.

Things have been difficult for Cherchesov who is trying to bring much needed youth into an aging squad, which has already lost veteran stalwarts Sergei Iganashevich and Roman Shirokov.

Russia were one of the oldest teams at Euro 2016 but results have not improved and they have slipped to 53rd in the world rankings.   Continued...

 
A lighting installation showing a cat, a tiger and a wolf - candidates for the official mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is seen during a presentation on the facade of Moscow State University, part of the Circle of Light International Festival in Moscow, Russia September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin