Moscow: New Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov has made wholesale changes for his first game in charge against Turkey as he bids to revive a demoralised squad to host the World Cup in less than two years.
Only eight of the 23-man squad that crashed out of Euro 2016 have been retained for the friendly against Turkey in Antalya on Wednesday. The match partly aims to ease political tensions between the countries. Russia also play Ghana in Moscow on 6 September.
Former international goalkeeper Cherchesov replaced Leonid Slutsky after the flop in France with the mammoth task of turning around the squad for the World Cup campaign.
Among the new faces are Rostov goalie Soslan Dzhanayev, left-back Fedor Kudryashov and midfielder Yury Gazinsky of Krasnodar.
Cherchesov also invited CSKA Moscow's Brazilian right-back Mario Fernandes, who recently acquired Russian citizenship but is not yet eligible to play for the country, along to training.
"We need to create the right chemistry to make the players feel pleasure when they join the national side," Cherchesov told the press after his appointment.
"First of all we need to restore respect to the team."
- 'Lifting the fans' -
Those called up to the new-look squad agreed that they needed to turn round perfomances after the summer's abysmal showing.
"The team have not been good in their recent matches," keeper Dzhanayev told the press after a training session near Moscow.
"We need to lift the interest of our supporters. That's why we all need to play as hard as we can."
Former Legia Warsaw trainer Cherchesov, 52, has a huge workload ahead of him to transform a team whose Euro 2016 performances sparked an online campaign to dismiss all the players that garnered a million signatures.
"This petition shows that our fans aren't indifferent," Cherchesov told the press.
"Our primary task is to build a competitive team by 2018."
But the former Spartak and Dynamo Moscow boss does not have many options as he looks to alleviate supporter ire.
"He has a scanty choice of players," football pundit Igor Rabiner at newspaper Sports Express told AFP.
"There's obviously a shortage of bright talent in the current generation of Russian footballers."
Rabiner said Cherchesov's no-nonsense approach should help give his stars a much needed kick.
"It's clear that the discipline is one of his top priorities," he said.
"I expect that his players will battle for the win in every single match under his guidance."
The political backdrop to the match in Turkey will add extra spice to the occassion.
The game comes after the strongman leaders of the the two countries Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan dramatically made up after an angry seven-month dispute over Turkey's shooting down of a Russian jet on the Syrian border last November.
Despite Russian football officials saying they have received full security assurances for the match, media reports said few Russian fans are likely to attend.
Published Date: Aug 30, 2016 16:50 PM | Updated Date: Aug 30, 2016 16:50 PM