For a man with the hopes of a nation - and the Kremlin - resting on his shoulders, Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov cut a remarkably relaxed figure ahead of his side's World Cup opener.
The tournament hosts take on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday with the pressure firmly on the 54-year-old who has to not only satisfy the country's fans and a hugely sceptical media but also provide the watching Vladimir Putin with reasons to be optimistic.
Putin is hoping to use the World Cup as a showcase for modern Russia and dismal failure from his own team is unlikely to go down well within the corridors of power.
With that in mind, Cherchesov could be forgiven for feeling the pressure but instead he was in a jovial mood on Wednesday, laughing and joking with reporters at his pre-match news conference.
He accepted, however, the need for a strong performance, and positive result, against the Saudis on opening night.
He said: "We have been studying our opponents from day one. There are no weak teams in any of the groups. The first game is important as it will set the tone to a certain extent.
"We are trying to iron out any kinks we have."
Cherchesov, whose players relaxed on Wednesday with a game of Trivial Pursuit, said morale was high in the camp and that criticism - Andrei Kanchelskis has described this Russia team as the worst he has ever seen - was part of the job.
"Our mood is very good, we are ready to work. We did a lot of work in Austria and we have reached a good recent level, especially against Turkey [a 1-1 draw in a pre-tournament friendly] when we showed a bit of the game we want to play," he added.
"Any coach has to accept criticism. I don’t read anything and stay focused on my job. We are trying to do what we’re doing – the fact we are getting criticised, that’s the world we live in today.
"Perhaps some don’t criticise enough and some too much. We never touch upon this topic at all. We have to do everything to turn criticism into praise."
Asked if he had a message for the Russian people, Cherchesov smiled and explained the western media wouild struggle to understand if they did not first understand the local culture.
"You would find it hard to find a way through the labyrinth of the Russian soul," he said.
"It takes us a long time to start driving but when we do we go all the way. But no-one ever achieved anything by words, so we have to follow it up with actions."
20 de enero 2019
|Manchester City reach 100 goals in 2018-19|
|Australia v Uzbekistan: Leckie´s return is ´like a new signing´, says Arnold|
|Jordan 1 Vietnam 1 (aet, 2-4 on penalties): Keeper Van Lam the shoot-out hero|
|Federer confirms French Open return after Melbourne exit|
|I accept his decision - Gattuso axes Chelsea-bound Higuain|
|The rapid rise of Federer-conqueror Tsitsipas|
|Gracious Federer hails ´better player´ Tsitsipas after Australian Open exit|
|Tsitsipas ´happiest man on earth´ after stunning Federer|
|Harden focused on wins, not personal feats after scoring 48 points|
|PSG midfielder Verratti suffers sprained ankle|
|Inspired Tsitsipas dethrones Federer|
|PSG´s Cavani considering career finale in Uruguay|
|Feisty Collins ready to make more noise after thrashing Kerber|
|I´ve got to work on my soccer skills! - Mavs´ Doncic didn´t know ejection rule|
|Lakers won´t rush LeBron & Rondo back despite Ball injury|
|A-League Review: Victory fightback in thriller with Wellington|
|Henry explains foul-mouthed confrontation with Strasbourg´s Lala|
|Nadal wary of ´dangerous´ Tiafoe|
|Emery ´not positive´ over Bellerin injury|
|Harden scores 48 points as Rockets rally past Lakers in OT|
|Pacquiao wants Mayweather rematch after beating Broner|
|Sharapova unimpressed with questions after Melbourne exit|
|Nadal outclasses Berdych en route to quarters|
|Collins trounces 2016 Aus Open champion Kerber|
|Sanchez: Man United thriving thanks to Solskjaer|
|Sharapova crashes out of Australian Open|
|Devils´ Palmieri replaces Hall on NHL All-Star roster|
|Tuchel stunned by PSG´s nine-goal thrashing of Guingamp|
|Modric wants to extend Real Madrid stay|
|Marotta: Icardi will re-sign, Godin wants Inter|
|´F*** no!´ - Westbrook on if he´s cool with Embiid|
|Mickelson shoots 66 to stay ahead at Desert Classic|
|Real Madrid? You never know what the future holds - PSG´s Mbappe|
|Inter lacked quality in disappointing Sassuolo draw - Spalletti|
|Walton has one goal for Lakers-Rockets matchup: Keep Harden under 50 points|
|CAF Champions League Review: Simba learn Vita lesson as Sundowns find form|
19 de enero 2019
|Bayliss relishing pressure of World Cup and Ashes to finish England reign|
|Guardiola keen to keep City rhythm and challenge on four fronts|
|Fifita backs Johnson to inspire the Sharks|
|For Real Madrid, nothing is impossible - Solari refuses to give up in title race|
|Inter 0 Sassuolo 0: Spalletti´s side labour at sparse San Siro|
|Marshawn Lynch will continue playing ´if it works out´|
|Simeone excited by improving Atleti|
|Jones ´cautiously optimistic´ over Farrell ahead of Ireland clash|
|Sarri questions Chelsea motivation after Arsenal surrender|
|Emery urges Arsenal to find balance after downing Chelsea|
|Koscielny hails Arsenal fighting spirit in Chelsea win|
|Pellegrini: It was not a good idea for Arnautovic to play|
|Iran v Oman: We´re not satisfied yet, says Al Mahaijri|
|Carbery sends Munster through and ends Exeter´s lingering Champions Cup hopes|
|Dyche defiant despite offside call|
|Hasenhuttl rates Everton win as Southampton´s best|
|Benitez looking up the table after Schar inspires win over Cardiff|
|RB Leipzig 0 Borussia Dortmund 1: Witsel restores six-point cushion|
|Swansea City 1 Sheffield United 0: McBurnie punishes wasteful Blades|
|Cardiff sign Sala from Nantes for club-record fee|
|Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0: Lacazette and Koscielny fire Gunners to rousing derby win|
|Huesca 0 Atletico Madrid 3: Dominant Atleti keep pressure on Barca|
|Rashford arguably league´s best striker with Kane out - Solskjaer|
|Hafeez plays steady hand as Pakistan punish Proteas´ patient approach|
|Klopp: Exceptional Salah would have scored even more up front!|
|Suspected ´serious´ Verratti injury leaves Tuchel with mixed emotions|
|We needed to rediscover our best form - Ramos pleased for Real Madrid fans|
|City bought Guardiola four full-backs! - Mourinho aims dig at Man Utd transfer policy|
|Valverde ´not frustrated´ amid De Jong & Vela links|
|Championship Review: Leaders Leeds beaten at Stoke as Villa end Hull run|
|Bournemouth rode their luck, admits Howe|
|Barca boss Valverde calls for clarity on RFEF rules|
|Bears rack up 107 points in routing Enisei en route to quarter-finals|
|Paris Saint-Germain 9 Guingamp 0: Verratti injured for rampant champions|