Russias Kokorin feeling weight of expectation
Russian forward Alexander Kokorin said Sunday that national expectations are weighing on him ahead of the team's first World Cup match against South Korea.
The 23-year-old forward was a relative unknown two seasons ago but has become a mainstay under Fabio Capello and scored four times in Russia's qualifying campaign.
He should earn his 23rd cap in Tuesday's Group H clash in Cuiaba.
"I really feel a big responsibility because everybody is talking about me as possibly one of the surprises of this World Cup," he said at the Russians' training base in Itu, outside Sao Paulo.
Kokorin, who plays for Dynamo Moscow, said he was not yet in perfect shape after a gruelling programme of training but he would be ready to face South Korea.
"I can't say I'm 100 percent for now but every day everything is getting better. We still have two days before the game and I think we're going to be fresh and sharp."
Russia are keen to make their mark after missing the past two World Cups. They will host the 2018 tournament.
"For us it's very important to show 100 percent of what we're capable of during the group stage and try to qualify without any pressure and then if we qualify try our best to go as far as possible," said Kokorin.
Capello's side topped their qualifying group ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and come into the tournament unbeaten in their past 10 games, including a win against South Korea.
Belgium take on Algeria in Belo Horizonte in the other Group H fixture on Tuesday.
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