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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Frustrated by Publicity-Shy Russia

KOBE, Japan -- He's the invisible man in Japan, harder to get hold of than even Ronaldo or David Beckham. Since his arrival in Japan, Russian coach Oleg Romantsev has seemingly taken a vow of silence.

While other national coaches have been holding daily news conferences, Romantsev, whose dislike of the media he has never hidden, has restricted media access to the whole of the Russian team.

Even though Russia is set to play Tunisia on Wednesday and the host nation Japan four days later, the only Russian official to appear at news conferences since the start of the World Cup has been the general team manager, Alexander Polinsky, described by one Russian journalist as the official "as far from the team" as possible.

The only players allowed to speak to the media have been Ruslan Pimenov and Alexander Kerzhakov, who were brought out after Russia's only open training session last Wednesday.

Interviewed by RTR and ORT, they received as much of a grilling as a plate of sushi as other media were crowded out, leaving one Western news agency journalist shaking his head after no questions had been asked about injuries, despite the fact that one of the players had a bandage round his leg at the time.

Part of the secrecy is understandable given the large presence of journalists from Japan, seen by Romantsev as Russia's chief opponent in the group.

And patience among the Russians has long been running thin with Japanese journalists as news conferences in Russia have been packed with Japanese journalists since the draw for the World Cup.

Russia is returning to the World Cup after an eight year absence and Romantsev knows a win against Tunisia is vital if his side is to advance through Group H. Since finishing top of Group 1 of the European qualifiers, it has known tht anything but three points against Tunisia will leave them struggling in a group that includes Belgium and Japan.

Because of this, Japanese journalists have been left interviewing any Russian journalist they can find where the Russians are based.

After travelling to Kobe on Wednesday, the team let media into its training session for the FIFA-required 15 minutes before shooing them away.

As the journalists were escorted off the training ground after their 15 minutes had elapsed, a Russian official explained to Russian journalists that they wouldn't want any of us to give any secrets away.

"Ah," replied one television journalist, "we've sold them all already."

"I know you wouldn't do that," said the official soothingly.

Russian media have received special but still limited access to the Russian team. Romantsev gave a rare interview to Sport-Express on Monday, saying that preparations were going well.

The only injury worries for the Tunisia match , Romantsev said, were Alexander Mostovoi and Alexei Smertin. Both trained on Monday.

Mostovoi said in an interview with RTR that it would be decided on Wednesday whether he would be fit to play against Tunisia.