MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia are set to gauge their strength in a friendly against South Korea in Moscow on Saturday, a first international test for the World Cup hosts since they were knocked out of the Confederations Cup on home soil.
The hosts of next year’s World Cup have not had the opportunity to face Europe’s best teams in qualifying and are now trying to make up for the lack of serious competition.
Russia’s performance at the Confederations Cup – a two-week tournament that served as a rehearsal for the World Cup — raised concerns that they could suffer another embarrassment at the 2018 tournament.
Poor goalkeeping and squandered chances proved costly but manager Stanislav Cherchesov believes his team have learned from their mistakes.
“The Confederations Cup allowed us to move to higher psychological level,” Cherchesov told a news conference on Friday.
“We don’t want to take a step back but use that tournament to move forward. We want to do this and are convinced that we can.”
The most notable addition to the Russian side for the friendly against South Korea is Zenit St Petersburg striker Alexander Kokorin.
He had not been called up to the national team for nearly a year because of his poor form and involvement in several controversies off the pitch.
But the 26-year-old has had a stellar start this season, scoring eight goals in 12 matches to help his club to the top of the Russian Premier League standings.
South Korea will be making their ninth straight World Cup appearance in Russia having finished second in their Asian qualifying group.
Russia and South Korea last met at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, drawing 1-1. Both teams exited the tournament at the group stage without winning a match.
That game is remembered for a costly blunder by veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who fumbled the ball from a harmless shot to put Korea 1-0 up.
“I don’t live in the past. The question is closed,” Akinfeev, who is expected to start against South Korea, told reporters.
Russia play a friendly against Iran in Kazan on Oct. 10.
The World Cup finals run from June 14 to July 15 in 12 venues spread across 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, editing by Ed Osmond