- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia defender Vasily Berezutsky retired from international soccer on Friday, one year before his country hosts the World Cup.

The 35-year-old Berezutsky played 101 games for Russia dating to 2003, and the national team doesn’t have an obvious replacement.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has experimented with various defenders in recent friendlies, with largely unimpressive results, including a loss to Qatar.

Berezutsky’s last game for Russia was a 4-3 loss to Costa Rica in October, when he made several key errors.

He hopes international retirement will prolong his club career with CSKA Moscow.

“Taking into account my age and most importantly, my health, after carefully weighing up all the pros and cons, I’ve decided to focus on playing for CSKA,” he said in a statement on the Russian Football Union website.

“The Russian national team has a healthy working atmosphere and is creating a great group who can achieve big things.”

Cherchesov paid tribute to Berezutsky and said he didn’t want to close the door entirely. “In a case of extreme need, I’m convinced he could return to the Russia team,” Cherchesov said.

Russia hasn’t gone past the group stage at a major tournament since 2008, when Berezutsky helped the team to the semifinals of the European Championship.

Neither Berezutsky’s twin brother, Alexei, nor his longtime partner at center back, Sergei Ignashevich, has been selected since last year’s European Championship. Former captain Roman Shirokov retired after Euro 2016.

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