Smertin laments defensive role
By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
With Viktor Onopko and Sergei Ignashevich absent through injury, Smertin was forced to lend his know-how to the back-line.
Though he has little experience at playing in defence, Smertin operated alongside Roman Sharonov in the 1-0 defeat to Spain.
Smertin, who is captain of the side in Onopko's absence, acknowledges he would much prefer to play in his accustomed role in midfield.
But being the skipper, he accepts he must take on the responsibility of being deployed in a position which bests suits the team.
"I will not pretend that I am not disappointed because I am used to playing in midfield," said Smertin.
"The armband gives you more of a burden in every sense of the word."
Russia coach Georgi Yartsev insists Smertin had no major issue with playing at centre half due to the injuries which have disrupted his plans.
"For the good of the team the captain must play where he is needed most," Yartsev told the Sport Telegraph. "Alexei understands the position."
Russia have also moved to play down reports of a rift in the camp following critical comments made by Alexander Mostovoi in the aftermath of the loss to Spain.
Mostovoi had reportedly claimed the squad had been worked too hard in the build-up to the tournament in an interview conducted in Spanish.
But Russian press officer Alexander Chernov stated it was a case of mis-translation and there are no schisms within the squad.