Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov, right, attends a Russia official training at the 2018 soccer World Cup at Park Arena in Sochi, Russia, Friday, July 6, 2018 on the eve of the quarter-final match between Russia and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The Latest: Russia's team inspired by calls from Kremlin

July 06, 2018 - 7:35 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest at the World Cup (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov says his team feels inspired by phone calls from President Vladimir Putin ahead of its World Cup quarterfinal against Croatia.

Cherchesov says "the support of the head of state is important for us and the players know about it and it's extra motivation."

While Putin has watched only Russia's opening 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, Cherchesov says "he has called me several times, and both before and after the game against Spain."

Russia beat Spain on Sunday in a penalty shootout in the last 16.

Russia plays Croatia in Sochi on Saturday, for a potential semifinal against England or Sweden. The Kremlin has said Putin doesn't plan to attend the quarterfinal.

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1:05 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the World Cup has helped combat negative stereotypes about Russia and showed the country to be a welcoming place.

Putin made the comments on Friday when he was hosting FIFA President Gianni Infantino and some soccer greats at the Kremlin.

Putin said, "People have seen that Russia is a hospitable country that is welcoming to those who come here."

He added that many negative preconceived notions about Russia "simply collapsed" during the tournament.

Among the players at the Kremlin were Marco van Basten of the Netherlands, Lothar Matthaeus of Germany, and Diego Forlan of Urugway.

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1 p.m.

Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist has become a father again, one day before leading his team against England in a World Cup quarterfinal.

Granqvist's wife, Sofie, announced on her Instagram account their daughter's birth at 00:36 a.m. on Friday in Sweden.

She wrote: "And she arrived and made our life complete, baby Mika #babymika #finally."

Granqvist has his wife's blessing to stay in Russia until the end of Sweden's surprise deep run in the tournament.

Their baby was originally due in June, then was expected on Tuesday when Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0 in the round of 16.

Sweden plays England in Samara on Saturday for a place in the semifinals.

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11:05 a.m.

Jamie Vardy has missed most of England's training and appears unlikely to be fit for the World Cup quarterfinal against Sweden on Saturday.

Vardy injured his groin on Tuesday after going on as a substitute in the 88th minute of England's penalty shootout victory over Colombia in the round of 16.

He only warmed up with the squad on Friday at its base outside St. Petersburg and didn't take part in the rest of the session.

Vardy has started only one match in Russia, against Belgium, when coach Gareth Southgate made sweeping changes to his lineup including resting captain and World Cup leading scorer Harry Kane.

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1:15 a.m.

Cristiano Ronaldo's agent has told Portuguese newspaper Record the player would be "eternally grateful" to Real Madrid if he ends up leaving the European champion.

Jorge Mendes quoted by Record saying that if Ronaldo moves to Juventus, "it will be just a new phase and a new challenge in his brilliant career."

Local media in Spain and Italy claim Ronaldo has already reached a deal to sign with the Serie A champion, although neither club has officially confirmed the negotiations.

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