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Russia’s rising star Denis Cheryshev out to upset his adopted homeland

‘Half Russian and half Spanish’ midfielder is confident host nation can shock Spain in last-16 game in Moscow

Denis Cheryshev was the player Russia chose to appear at their press conference the day before the biggest football match in the country’s recent history, a last-16 encounter with Spain at their home Luzhniki Stadium, and it was not hard to guess why.

Cheryshev, quietly spoken and with a wry smile, has emerged as the unexpected star of the Russia team at the tournament, scoring two goals in the opening match against Saudi Arabia and another against Egypt. But his personal circumstances also lend his involvement against Spain extra spice. Cheryshev has lived in Spain since he was five, came through the Real Madrid academy and has dual Spanish and Russian nationality. On Saturday he answered most questions in flawless Spanish. He stands out in a squad of largely homegrown and home-reared players – one of only two of Russia’s 23-man squad not to play in the domestic league.

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