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Russia defender Vasily Berezutsky retires from international football

Vasily Berezutsky pictured during training with the Russia national team in October 2016.
Vasily Berezutsky is Russia's third most-capped player ever.

Russia defender Vasily Berezutsky retired from international football on Friday, one year before his country hosts the World Cup.

Berezutsky, 35, played 101 games for his country after making his debut in 2003, and hopes international retirement will prolong his club career with CSKA Moscow.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has experimented with various defenders in recent friendlies, with largely unimpressive results, including a loss to Qatar.

"Taking into account my age and most importantly, my health, after carefully weighing up all the pros and cons, I've decided to focus on playing for CSKA," he said in a statement on the Russian Football Union website.

"The Russian national team has a healthy working atmosphere and is creating a great group who can achieve big things."

Berezutsky's last game for Russia was a 4-3 loss to Costa Rica in October, during which he made several key errors.

Cherchesov paid tribute to Berezutsky and said he didn't want to close the door entirely.

"In a case of extreme need, I'm convinced he could return to the Russia team," Cherchesov said.

Russia haven't gone past the group stage at a major tournament since 2008, when Berezutsky helped the team to the semifinals of the European Championship.

Neither Berezutsky's twin brother, Alexei, nor his longtime partner at centre-back, Sergei Ignashevich, has been selected since last year's Euros. Former captain Roman Shirokov retired after Euro 2016.

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