Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the national football team on a "very good game" despite their defeat in the fiercely-fought quarter-final of Fifa World Cup 2018 against Croatia on Saturday, coach Stanislav Cherchesov said.
The Russian tactician added that he had told Putin that the team was disappointed after the heartbreaking loss but that the 65-year-old leader asked them to get over it and focus on the future.
Russia's fairytale run in the World Cup came to an end in Sochi as Luka Modric-led Croatia won the quarter-final tie on penalties even as Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev watched on with other dignitaries from the stands at the Fisht Stadium.
Cherchesov's men fought and fought hard even after conceding a one-goal lead in the second-half of extra-time.
Mario Fernandes' header in the 115th minute kept Russia in the game but missed penalties from the goal-scorer himself and Fedor Smolov meant the Sbornayas were knocked out.
Russia's performance was great: Putin tells Cherchsesov
"Mr. Dmitry Medvedev, our prime minister was in changing room but I didn't have time to talk to him," Cherchesov told the media on Saturday.
He added: "President Vladimir Putin called me during the day and called me right now. He congratulated us on a very good game. He said that what we showed on the field was great. I told him that we're disappointed. But he said we should have our eyes open and make the next steps."
Despite not having watched the Russian team from the stands (barring the opener in Moscow), Putin had given words of encouragement to the team.
Ahead of their all-important Round of 16 tie against former champions Spain, Putin had not only wished the team well but also came up with words of reassurance, telling them that team would not be judged, regardless of the outcome of the match.
People are in love with us: Russia coach
Not many gave the lowest-ranked side at the World Cup a chance to even progress out of the group stages. The European side hadn't managed to taste success in seven matches in the lead-up to the quadrennial tournament and lost a few key players, including influential striker Alexandr Kokorin, to injury.
However, Russia opened their campaign on a high, putting on an attacking masterclass and crushing a woeful Saudi Arabian side 5-0 in Moscow.
Cherchesov and his men got fans to believe in them after they outclassed Egypt 3-1 in the second Group A game.
The likes of Alexandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev, and Artem Dzyuba were impressive as Russia built on the momentum to cause one of the biggest upsets of the tournament as they knocked out the La Roja on penalties in the quarter-final.
"We trusted ourselves. We could only prove our worth by working hard. I believe that people did not only start trusting us but they are in love with us. They know what the Russian national team is worth. I hope we have turned the situation for the better," a seemingly proud Cherchesov said after their quarter-final defeat.
Meanwhile, Croatia will face England in the second semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday. Heavyweights France and Belgium will battle for the final spot when they meet in St. Petersburg on the previous day.