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KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov shrugged off his team’s early exit from the Confederations Cup that they are hosting on Saturday, insisting they had made a "qualitative leap" over the last year.
Russia were knocked out after losing 2-1 to Mexico in Kazan, another setback for the hosts of next year’s World Cup who have recently become accustomed to early exits from international tournaments.
Russia crashed out of last year’s Euro 2016 at the group stage without a win and were regarded by many as the weakest team in the tournament. They also fell at the first hurdle in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.
"What we started with after the European Championship and what we have today, I think we have managed to accomplish a qualitative leap and we should not stop where we are," Cherchesov told reporters.
"A more general analysis takes more time and we have to drill down into every detail," added Cherchesov, looking remarkably relaxed and with his tie loose and top shirt button undone as usual.
"Believe me, we will analyse everything when the passions calm down."
Cherchesov insisted that his players had improved throughout the tournament and "had done the best they could" in the loss to Mexico.
"We are making steps in the right directions, and I’m convinced of that," he said.
The former Russia goalkeeper, who was appointed in the aftermath of the team’s Euro debacle, said he hoped his players would learn from their three matches.
"I hope that all of the players who took part in these matches will use the experience to grow and develop," he said.
"Some 75 percent of our players had never played in such a big tournament. We’ll try to take the next step ahead.
"We have won hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month and this has given reasons to feel optimistic."
"The team played their hearts out and I don't think anyone here tonight or in front of their television sets have any doubts about that."
Reporting by Moscow newsroon; editing by Brian Homewood and Neville Dalton