By Associated Press - Thursday, November 30, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) - Scarf-wearing soccer fans in Russia are already getting excited about next year’s World Cup, and some are even expecting quite a lot from the country’s national team despite its poor recent record.

Sergei Martyshin, a 34-year-old marketing manager in Moscow sporting a Russian national team scarf, used to be more interested in hockey. But he is becoming more of a soccer fan as the World Cup approaches.

“I’m going to be supporting the Russian team,” Martyshin said, “and I expect them to put in 200 percent effort and at least reach the final.”

Mikhail Chernikov, an 18-year-old Spartak Moscow fan, is also confident but is taking a more conservative view of the team’s chances.

“We’ll definitely get out of the group. It’s got better under (Russia coach Stanislav) Cherchesov than it was at the European Championship, the tactics are coming together,” Chernikov said.

Russia reached the semifinals at Euro 2008, but has not made it out of the group stage at a major tournament since.

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