On the eve of his World Cup showdown against South Korea, Russia head coach Fabio Capello said Monday he has "great expectations" for his side.
"We've done everything in our power to come to this beginning in top form," Capello said through an interpreter at the pre-match press conference held at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, the site of the Group H match between South Korea and Russia at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
"All of our players are in excellent physical condition,"
Capello added. "I am confident in the abilities of my team. I really think the teams we're going to play against will realize we have great players."
|Balls put in line on a pitch during a training session of Russian national soccer team in Itu, Brazil, on Friday, June 13, 2014. Russia will play in group H of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP-Yonhap)|
The Italian-born Capello took England to the round of 16 at the previous World Cup in South Africa. He has brought Russia to its first World Cup since 2002, and will look to put the European side in the knockout stage for the first time ever.
Algeria and Belgium are the two other teams in Group H.
Russia defeated South Korea 2-1 last November in their only previous meeting, and Capello said having already played South Korea has helped in his team's preparation.
When asked if Russian players weren't as informed about South Koreans as they should be, Capello said it wouldn't have much bearing on the match itself.
"I don't think it's important to know the names of the players," he said. "It's important to know the characteristics of the players and to make sure we get to the game in excellent condition. We know Korea is well prepared both tactically and physically."
Capello also said having "intelligence" is the most important thing in any match.
"It's (also) important to respect the opponent, to understand what the game is about and to play with personality," he added. "I am sure we'll play an excellent World Cup."
The 67-year-old, who has won multiple club championships in Italy and Spain, said he chose to coach Russia because he "wanted to do something different" and take on new challenges.
With a glowing resume that includes the 1994 UEFA Champions League title with AC Milan, Capello has earned plenty of respect from Russian players.
Vasily Berezutskiy, who accompanied the coach to the press conference as the team captain, said Capello is "the biggest star on our team" and "a very respectable coach."
The defensive back also echoed Capello's sentiment that Russia is ready to take on South Korea.
"There are no weak teams. This is the World Cup," Berezutskiy said. "This is why we're going to play as well as we can. We're not afraid, and we are confident."
The player also said Russia is strong enough as a team that it won't miss midfielder Roman Shirokov, who has been ruled out of the World Cup with a knee injury.
"It will be a collective effort," Berezutskiy said. "We shouldn't be fixated too much on the fact that his absence will influence our game. We're going to cope with his absence. It's not a big problem."
Following the press conference, Russia held its final practice at Arena Pantanal and opened the first 15 minutes to the media. The team arrived in Cuiaba on Monday, while South Korea landed here a day earlier.
Capello said coming to the host city a day later than his opponents shouldn't present problems, since Russia only took a short flight from its base camp in Itu, near Sao Paulo, to Cuiaba.
Cuiaba is known for hot and humid conditions. To acclimate themselves, the South Koreans trained in Miami for about two weeks starting in late May before setting up camp in Foz do Iguacu, southern Brazil. Russians, on the other hand, stayed in Moscow until right before coming to Brazil.
Capello said his team was fortunate that it was quite hot in the Russian capital while his team trained there.
"It was 32 degrees (Celsius) while we were training in Moscow, and we found ideal conditions to train because of that," he said.
"We were lucky in that respect."
With the temperature in Cuiaba around 25 degrees Celsius in the late afternoon, Capello said, "It doesn't feel that hot to me here. I can tell you it was hotter in Moscow." (Yonhap)