Russia Hour

After a certain, indefinable point, failure becomes a default option. Like the South Korean team who, for so long seemed capable of doing everything but winning a match in the World Cup finals, so it was with Russia. Would they ever get past the group stages of a major tournament again? The answer to that, finally, is yes, and they managed it some style this evening with a win against Sweden that was the best performance that I can remember having seen from either a Russian or Soviet team. The first half of the match was almost embarrassingly one-sided. Having brought in Andrei Arshavin into the team after he missed the first two matches due to suspension, they looked a transformed team and, whilst it’s probably fair to say that Sweden took about fifteen or twenty minutes to even turn up, this was a performance that will at least give the Netherlands pause for thought before their meeting with them in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Where, then, has it gone wrong for Sweden? Most people blelieved that they would get through this group with Spain, but it turns out to have been a tournament too far for many of their older players. Henrik Larsson may have shown profound irritation when he was reminded of this in a post-match interview by ITV last night, but the fact of the matter...

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