Soccer-Russia coach says criticism deserved after tepid show in Euro opener

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Russia Training - Petrovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 15, 2021 Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov during training REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia deserved the criticism they got for their lacklustre performance against Belgium in their Euro 2020 opener, manager Stanislav Cherchesov said on Tuesday, but added the squad was preparing well for their next match against Finland.

Russia lost 3-0 to Belgium on Saturday on home turf in St Petersburg, prompting criticism from fans and pundits. The match highlighted the vast skill and talent gap between Belgium, the world's top-ranked side, and Cherchesov's team.

Russia's backline crumbled under pressure from the fearsome Belgian attack, raising questions about the team's prospects of making it to the knockout stage from Group B, which also includes Finland and Denmark, for the first time since 2008.

"The criticism was deserved," Cherchesov told reporters a day before Russia face Finland in St Petersburg.

"We have recovered from the first match. Now we have an absolutely different kind of preparation."

Finland, making their first appearance at the finals of a major tournament, won 1-0 in their first game against Denmark, a match that was overshadowed by the collapse on the pitch of Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen.

The Finns kept six clean sheets in qualifying and Russia defender Georgy Dzhikiya highlighted their organisation as a key strength.

"They are a disciplined team," Dzhikiya said. "They are organised and play in a compact way."

Cherchesov added that 38-year-old defender Yuri Zhirkov was most likely out for the rest of the tournament after sustaining an injury in the first half of the Belgium match.

"Finland are not an easy opponent and they have already demonstrated this (against Denmark)," Cherchesov said.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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