MOSCOW (AP) – Russia's national football team has a prominent critic ahead of the Confederations Cup–none other than Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president warned Thursday that ''fans and those who love Russian football expect better results from our national team,'' which has won just three of its last 15 games.
Putin was speaking on a televised phone-in event two days before before Russia faces New Zealand in the opening game of the Confederations Cup, a key World Cup warm-up event.
Putin added ''we'll hope that the guys play with full commitment, like real warriors and athletes, to at least please the fans with their effort to win.''
Putin said he'd asked unnamed ''world-class'' specialists how well Russia can play, and received pessimistic answers citing poor youth coaching and too many foreign players in the Russian league.
However, recent games show ''there is potential,'' Putin added.
Russia beat Hungary 3-0 and drew with Chile 1-1 in last week's friendlies.