Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov will look to be a “God” on Sunday and inflict more misery on Fernando Hierro and Spain.
Cherchesov was in goal when Spartak Moscow dumped a Real Madrid side containing a young Hierro out of the Champions League in 1991, 3-1 on aggregate.
The pair will be in rival dugouts when the World Cup hosts take on Spain in the last 16 in Moscow and Cherchesov is hoping for a repeat outcome.
He said: “At that time, Spanish teams were favourites but, to use a Russian expression, ‘anyone can be God if he tries to’.
“Fernando Hierro was a good player and now he’s a good coach.
“We won against the Spanish team and on hopefully on Sunday we can repeat that success and prove our worth.”
— Сборная России (@TeamRussia) June 30, 2018
Cherchesov denied there was any extra pressure on him or his team playing in front of 78,000 expectant fans at the Luzhniki Stadium.
He said: “It’s clear that this is a play-off, a life or death match, only one team can go through.
“It’s not a pressure but there is a responsibility, Spain feels it and Russia feels it. If you lose you’re out.”
Russia and Spain played out a 3-3 friendly draw in November but Cherchesov believes the exit of Julen Lopetegui – sacked a day before the tournament got underway for failing to inform the Spanish FA that he had held talks with Real Madrid – and Hierro’s subsequent appointment has prompted a tweak in their opponent’s style.
“They have changed their game a little bit,” he said. “The players are the same but their play is different. After 20 minutes of the first game [against Portugal] they changed their style and we have been analysing this.
“The Russia team has [also] changed [since November] because we were forced to make changes. We lost three players who I wanted in the first XI in the first game.
“With all the changes we’ve got through we’ve managed to gain some moderate success.”
Denis Cheryshev has been one of Russia’s stars at this tournament with three goals but has spent his entire club career in Spain. He made a couple of appearances for Real Madrid, before loan spells at Sevilla, Villarreal and Valencia. He joined the Yellow Submarine on a permanent deal two years ago.
Asked how his life would change if he scored the winner and knocked Spain out, he said: “I think life would go on, nothing would change.
“What’s most important is that our team can continue at the World Cup. If I score a goal I’d be very happy, but I’d be happier if we stay in the tournament.”
The 27-year-old accepts it’s a tough ask to beat a Spain side regarded as one of the favourites to win the title but he insists Russia should not be discounted.
“Spain have some great players, they might even be the best team in the world, or certainly close, but any team can hurt another,” he said.
“I repeat they are excellent, they play very well but we also have our strengths. I think we can win against anyone, and that’s what we need to think. Just think of victory.”
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