The recent performances of World Cup hosts Russia have left plenty of questions about their prospects at the tournament that opens next week.
On Tuesday, Russia extended their winless streak to seven matches with a 1-1 home draw against Turkey — meaning they have not chalked up a single victory in eight months.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side have five wins, six draws and nine defeats since the former Russian international goalkeeper took over in August 2016.
“Everything’s bad,” declared the Wednesday front page of Sport Express daily, which said the national side’s play had dampened the mood of fans in the country.
“With such a performance from our national team our chances look pretty low,” school teacher Daniil Pospelov, who watched the Turkey match from a Moscow pub, told AFP.
“We need to learn how to attack constructively to get a result regardless of whether the opponents’ team make mistakes or not.”
However Vitaly Mutko, who was once the head of Russian football but temporarily stepped down after he was linked to state-sponsored doping programmes, was not disturbed by the result.
“It’s not a problem that the squad haven’t won a single match within a year,” Sport Express quoted Mutko as saying.
“Don’t forget who have the opponents have been — Argentina, Spain, Brazil, France.
Cherchesov, who on Tuesday became the country’s first manager to fail to win in seven consecutive games, also found some positives in his team’s performance compared to their previous friendly last week.
“I think we’ve made a qualitative leap ahead by comparison to the match with Austria,” he said.
However, attempts to put a brave face on a sorry business angered many of the country’s veterans.
“I don’t grieve for Cherchesov and his plans,” former Manchester United star and Russian international Andrei Kanchelskis told Sport Express. “For me his ideas are ridiculous and unreal. I’m worried about our footballers.
“I just cannot grieve for the ridiculous coaching team that destroys our football.”
Russia kick off their World Cup against Saudi Arabia in Group A at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14 and also face Egypt in St Petersburg on June 19 and Uruguay in Volgograd on June 25.