4/23/2018 6:32:34 PM (GMT+3)

It’s much easier to get to the top than to stay there, says Smolov

It’s much easier to get to the top than to stay there, says Smolov

MOSCOW: It was only a few years ago that Fyodor Smolov was one of the most criticised figures in Russian football and the butt of many jokes.

The 28-year-old Krasnodar front man has developed into an unstoppable force up front, topping the Russian Premier League scoring charts for the previous two seasons. The versatile striker also scored five goals for the national team last year, more than any other player.

“It’s much easier to get to the top than to stay there," Smolov said in an interview with FIFA.com. "Firstly, at a certain point your motivation drops because you think that you’ve already made it. Secondly, your opponents start to adapt to your game and treat you differently. I see it with myself; defenders never leave me alone now, which wasn’t the case before. It’s much harder to maintain your standards in such circumstances, but I’m trying."

When asked if he is playing the best football of his career, he added: "Hardly. I’m planning to peak at the World Cup.”

Russia fans fondly remember the opening match of last year's Confederations Cup, as the Sbornaya confidently dealt with New Zealand.

Smolov managed to get on the scoresheet in that 2-0 win and was voted Man of the Match, but subsequent losses against Portugal (1-0) and Mexico (2-1) meant they went out at the group stage.

"Clearly we lacked experience," he said. "We were never outplayed; our opponents just punished our mistakes. The little details cost us. I think this experience will work in our favour at the World Cup. Lapses in concentration or slow decision-making is simply not acceptable in tournaments at this level."