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Russia coach happy to dodge Spain in World Cup draw

Moscow (AFP) – Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov expressed his relief at avoiding 2010 champions Spain in Friday’s draw for next year’s World Cup.

Hosts Russia, the lowest ranked nation in the 32-team tournament, were placed alongside Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Group A.

They were among the eight top seeds in pot one as tournament hosts, with three-time European champions Spain relegated to pot two along with England.

“I cannot say whether I’m happy or not,” said former international goalkeeper Cherchesov, who took charge of Russia after their dismal group-stage exit at Euro 2016.

“(Mohamed) Salah, (Edinson) Cavani, (Luis) Suarez are the names, while only the games will show the (quality) of the teams.”

Russia has not advanced beyond the first round in three World Cup appearances — 1994, 2002 and 2014 — since the break up of the USSR.

They kick off the 2018 finals against Saudi Arabia on June 14 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, then face Egypt in Saint Petersburg five days later before rounding out their group campaign against Uruguay on June 25 in Samara.

“I’m not familiar with any of our group’s teams,” said Cherchesov, who added that he liked the fact that his team was working its way from the weakest to the strongest opponent. 

“We will face the team from the fourth pot in the opening game, then from the third and from the second in the last group-stage game. 

“It may become just a small advantage for us. We just didn’t want to get Spain from pot two.”

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