Aleksandr Samedov insists Russia are no longer feeling the pressure after making it through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup on home soil.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side came into the finals as the lowest ranked team in the competition, but they quickly proved their credentials by comprehensively beating both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
A defeat to Uruguay in their final group game meant Russia faced the daunting prospect of taking on Spain in the last 16, but they produced a superb defensive performance to hold the 2010 world champions to a 1-1 draw and they subsequently prevailed on penalties.
Next up for the hosts is a quarter-final clash with Croatia at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on Saturday, but midfielder Samedov feels they can head into that contest without any pressure, as they have already exceeded expectations by reaching the last eight.
“Now there is not so much pressure,” Samedov told reporters.
“Compared to before the tournament and the pressure we felt back then – it was much harder.
“Now we are in quarter-finals and we just want to bring pleasure to the supporters and to get further and we do not feel the pressure as we did before the tournament.”
Russia have never beaten Croatia before, losing their most recent meeting in November 2015 3-1, but they are priced at 2.38 to book their place in the semi-finals at the expense of Zlatko Dalic’s side, who are available at 1.57 to reach the last four.