• Winger Aleksandr Samedov and striker Fyodor Smolov spoke ahead of Russia 2018
  • Smolov and Samedov lead the team’s goals and assists charts
  • They both agree “the first aim is to get out of the group”
By Igor Borunov, with Russia

Оn the start of their home World Cup

Samedov: The motivation for these tournaments is special. Every day you try to work at your maximum level. I already know what a World Cup is all about and how intense it is. It’s the highest stage you can play on. I’m staying calm in my preparations because psychology is an important factor too, although the pressure is there. It’s our home World Cup and we’re kick-starting the tournament. The whole world will be watching us.

Smolov: This is a special event for any country in this position that will stay in the memory for many years to come. All the stadiums and infrastructure that have been built for the World Cup will be the legacy of the tournament and help us to develop new generations, teach kids how to play football and improve the sport in our country. We want the tournament to get started already! Your first game is the most important; you start the tournament as you mean to go on. We’ve only got three games in the group stage. There is no time to make any plans, we just have to give it 100 per cent from the first minute of the first match and get the best possible result.

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Оn their roles in the team

Both players are key to the Sbornaya: Samedov has produced the most goals and assists combined under head coach Stanislav Cherchesov, four and six respectively, while Smolov is the team’s top scorer with seven.

Samedov: I’m really comfortable in the national team, I’m happy with everything. I’m ready and always delighted to play for my country.

Smolov: I can’t say that I’m the biggest attacking threat; I’m just the striker and my main job is to score goals and finish off the moves that the team puts together. But actually, it makes no difference who puts the ball in the net. I’m not worried about that.

On their opponents in the Opening Match

Samedov: The Saudi players are technically skilled, they can hold onto the ball and don’t boot it away under pressure. They bring the ball out of defence calmly. They are really tough, quality opposition. We’ve got a difficult game in front of us.

Smolov: They’re a fairly technical team and set up to play short and medium passes and control the ball. They’ve got some quick players in attack. Their coach is from Chile, you can see he’s trying to get them to play passing football.

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On their aims at the tournament

Samedov: No matter what, we have to get out of the group. We must win our first game, then our second and not leave everything to the last minute. I’ve been at three major tournaments before and every time it’s always gone down to the third match for us. Now we have to do everything so it doesn’t come to this. I’m not going to give any predictions; we’ve got the Opening Match on 14 June, which is a massive moment for every one of us and we must go out there and win. I’m confident in my team-mates and I’m confident in myself. We have worked hard and are well prepared. We’re not sitting around worrying what will happen if it doesn’t work out for us. We know what we want and where we’re heading.

Smolov: We’ve been through a ton of work. Physically the team is in great shape. It’s not worth looking at the results from our warm-up games. All teams have their own development plans. I’m sure we’ll show what we’re capable of at the World Cup. We’re guaranteed three games in the group stage. At this point, the objective is to get out of the group. I hope we achieve this, then afterwards we’ll see.