LESSONS
IN LIAISON
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from the number of calories in players' diets and the length of their massages,
to the height of the grass on the training pitch and how often it is watered.
The team liaison officers at Russia 2018 found out just how demanding participating nations can be when the World Cup is up for grabs, though they also saw for themselves how much the players put into their preparations.
France defender
«enjamin Mendy
GETS
THE PARTY STARTED

at the press conference
that followed his side's
victory in the final
hen it comes to great sporting achievements, there are no such things as insignificant details. When the stakes are high and the prize is nothing less than the World Cup Trophy and the right to be called "the greatest team on the planet", every little thing needs to be looked at:
FRANCE'S TRUMP CARD
FRANCE'S TEAM LIAISON OFFICER, ALEXANDER GALKIN, REVEALS HOW THE EVENTUAL WORLD CHAMPIONS WENT ABOUT THEIR PREPARATIONS, PICKS OUT THE ROUND OF 16 TIE AGAINST ARGENTINA AS A PIVOTAL MOMENT, AND TALKS ABOUT THE FRENCH MENTALITY.
"It's hard to keep a lid on your emotions when you're sitting by the subs' bench and you realise that in a few minutes the team you have worked with for more than a month will be crowned world champions. You feel so happy for the players, the coaches, and all the staff. We were in the changing room after the final whistle and Paul Pogba stood on a table and thanked everyone, including the support staff. He said that without our support the whole time, it would have been difficult for them to have achieved such an amazing result.

I almost felt as if I'd done a military training course in the one month the World Cup was on for. The team always needed me to do something, and I was always running around and organising things. When it came to match preparations, the French were very demanding. The team stayed and trained in Istra, not too far from Moscow. There were a few glitches at first, but eventually things started to run smoothly. For example, the assistant coach would come up and tell me to get the unused half of the pitch watered, in precisely three minutes and 20 seconds' time. No less, no more! The problem is, the risk of players getting injuries increases when the pitch dries out. They can't stand around too long waiting for it to be watered as their muscles tighten up.
The French came to the World Cup with the intention of winning the whole thing. They had an excellent coach and strategist in Didier Deschamps and a superbly talented group of players. The team were young, but experienced; Antoine Griezmann was playing in his third major tournament, for example.

The team kept a bit in reserve in their group matches and had bit of luck along the way, especially against Australia. After each match, Pogba got the team together and said: 'We're going to stick at it till the end! It's not over yet!' When they were training back at their base, they practised their celebration routines and did some penalty shoot-outs, but when it came to the pre-match training sessions they were totally focused; when they spoke it was to the coaching staff and no one else.

The turning point was the match against Argentina. Kylian Mbappé had kept a low profile up to then, but in that game he was lightning fast, winning a penalty and a free-kick in a dangerous position. He also scored twice, while N'Golo Kanté shackled the great Lionel Messi.

That was the toughest match in terms of drama. When the Argentinians took the lead, I have to say I thought it was all over and that my team was going out. I pictured seeing them off, going back to the office, writing my report, and heading home. But the French moved up a gear and turned the game around. Benjamin Pavard's goal was an absolute gem and was voted by the fans as the best of the World Cup. It was his first goal for the team too. When he came to training the next day, he said he'd been so excited he hadn't got a wink of sleep.

After the Argentina game the team were confident they could go on and win the tournament. No one actually came out and said it, but you could see how strong the French were: both physically and tactically.

«y the time the final came around, the players were all emotionally drained. It felt like they'd peaked, in an emotional sense, in the semi-final. No one admitted that, of course, but you could see the French holding back a bit, almost as if they were keeping something in reserve in case they had to chase the game.

The French rated the organisation of the championship very highly. And believe me, when you get praise from them it means something. After all, they're the first to admit that they're the biggest moaners in the world."
The final preparations
are made
IN THE FUTURE
WORLD CHAMPIONS'
DRESSING ROOM,

where nothing can be allowed to distract
the players from their pursuit of victory
Meeting with fans
at Sparrow Hills,
RUSSIA'S
PLAYERS

make it very clear
who they gave their
all for.
"I met Stanislav Cherchesov for the first time in December 2017, at the World Cup draw, and we spoke at length at the team workshop in Sochi the following spring. I remember us being in a taxi together, and he told me how he'd trained there when he was young and how the players had had to wash their own kit. He's a straightforward person, very down to earth, and those qualities helped create a great atmosphere in the squad, with every player ready to do his very best. Everyone's eyes were shining.

The team had a strict timetable. For example, two days before one particular match we caught a flight from Moscow at 17.00, on the dot. Cherchesov could also be quite relaxed about things, though. He let the players see their families, and even let them go home after games. And every week the team and support staff played a game called 'Who? Where? When?'; they'd go into another building, split up into five or six teams, and tried to answer questions sent by the quizmaster Boris Levin.

I was at all of the team's training sessions and I could see how they'd changed. When they first began training for the tournament, I have to admit I was worried. There was a lot of negative coverage in the press, but the players avoided it and stayed away from social media virtually the whole time. Maybe that helped them get in the right frame of mind for the opening game against Saudi Arabia. The team's mindset changed after that match and their self-confidence grew. It helped too that Cherchesov was a very shrewd tactician. He and the players studied every opponent in depth.

The match against Egypt was the pivotal one. The pressure was huge. I remember we were 10 or 15 minutes late leaving the hotel because Cherchesov was busy giving a team talk. Nobody wanted to interrupt him, of course, even though FIFA has strict rules about when teams should arrive at the stadium and when they warm up. When they got to the stadium the team shut themselves away in the changing room. I could hear the lads were psyching themselves up and urging each other on. Then they went out, ready to do the best they could for each other and for their country.

After the victory over Spain, there was one thing that was absolutely clear: our country lives and breathes football. That was when I realised that the people I was with were making history. At the hotel in Sochi there were so many fans asking the players for autographs that they sometimes had a job making it to breakfast or lunch; they just didn't want to say no.

Cherchesov had this thing he always did: the day before a match, he would write a motivational phrase on the timetable. Before the Croatia game it was: 'Turn a fairytale into reality.' Sadly, they didn't quite manage that, but what they did was astounding all the same."
HOW RUSSIA MADE HISTORY
RUSSIA'S TEAM LIAISON OFFICER, ANDREY CHULKOV,
TALKS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES.
Artem Dzyuba
and Denis Cheryshev
were the standout
performers in a team
that did everything
it could
TO ACHIEVE
THE IMPOSSIBLE
hen it comes to great sporting achievements, there are no such things as insignificant details. When the stakes are high and the prize is nothing less than the World Cup Trophy and the right to be called "the greatest team on the planet", every little thing needs to be looked at: from the number of calories in players' diets and the length of their massages,
to the height of the grass on the training pitch and how often it is watered.
The team liaison officers at Russia 2018 found out just how demanding participating nations can be when the World Cup is up for grabs, though they also saw for themselves how much the players put into their preparations.
When it comes to great sporting achievements, there are no such things as insignificant details. When the stakes are high and the prize is nothing less than the World Cup Trophy and the right to be called "the greatest team on the planet", every little thing needs to be looked at: from the number of calories in players' diets and the length of their massages, to the height of the grass on the training pitch and how often it is watered. The team liaison officers at Russia 2018 found out just how demanding participating nations can be when the World Cup is up for grabs, though they also saw for themselves how much the players put into their preparations.
Meeting with fans at Sparrow Hills, RUSSIA'S PLAYERS make it very clear who they gave their all for.
Артем Дзюба
и Денис Черышев
были лучшими
в сборной, где каждый
ПЫТАЛСЯ СДЕЛАТЬ
НЕВОЗМОЖНОЕ

France defender Benjamin Mendy GETS THE PARTY STARTED at the press conference that followed his side's victory in the final
The final preparations are made IN THE FUTURE WORLD CHAMPIONS' DRESSING ROOM, where nothing can be allowed to distract the players from their pursuit of victory