Tag: Russia

Not Enough Dutch Courage

For the second major tournament in a row, the team that came out of the starting blocks the quickest have fallen at the quarter-final stage. It is a measure of the quality of last night’s Russian performance that the Netherlands were dependent on an exceptional performance from their goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Saar to even get to extra time in the first place, but ultimately the advantage of not having come into the competition at the end of a long, hard season seemed to tell for Russia. For the Dutch, the mood was sombre. The black armbands were a signifier of the sad personal events surrounding Khalid Bhoularouz, and they started in a sluggish manner, which was in sharp contrast to their performances in the group stage. From the very start, the Russians were too quick and too slick for the Dutch. Andrei Arshavin’s introduction into this Euro 2008 team has been the final piece in a jigsaw constructed by Guus Hiddinck, and this particular missing piece has transformed his team into a fluid, attacking unit and, as their confidence has grown since their opening defeat by Spain, they have started to flourish, firstly with an outstanding performance against Sweden and again last night against a Dutch team that had deservedly jumped to become the tournament favourites off the back three marvellous performances against France, Italy and Romania. Pavlyuchenko...

Read More

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...

Read More

Spain 4-1 Russia

Slowly but surely, Euro 2008 is coming to life. After last night’s contender for Match Of The Tournament between the Netherlands and Italy, tonight’s match between Russia and Sweden ran it fairly close. Against the wishes of anyone that wishes to steer clear of optimism surrounding the Spanish cause, it was a pretty outstanding start from Spain, whose expectation levels will have risen in the space of just two hours from “let’s get this over with and get on with La Liga” to “hang on, there’s a chance that we can actually win this”. Russia, it has to be said, didn’t play badly. They hit the post in the first half and were unfortunate to be two goals down at half-time. Ultimately, though, they paid for lax defending, in particular from Denis Kolodin, who failed to clear his lines for the first goal and was caught hopelessly out of position for the second. The match started in weather that one could argue theoretically argue favoured the Russians. The two teams kicked off in the middle of a heavy downpour that looked through the television cameras as if it might even develop into a monsoon, and Russia matched Spain pretty well in the opening stages, with Shemshov heading right. Such undermining of the natural order of things, however, couldn’t be allowed to continue, and a couple of minutes later Torres...

Read More

Euro 2004 – Group D

Finally, Group D. One of the curiosities of media coverage of this group so far has been the enthusiasm with which writers have reached into their big bag of cliches. Spain are the perennial under-achievers (true, but no more than England are), Russia are the footballing equivalent of a massive bear wearing (without a hint of irony) a bear skin hat with a hammer and sickle badge in the middle of it, and Greece are the international equivalent of a group of footballing village idiots, pleased to be there and merely making up the numbers. The truth of the matter is somewhat more complex than this. Spain, this time around, have no excuses. They have Europe’s hottest striker, a team that is positively saturated with talent and a manager who, while he could probably still do with a few lessons in diversity, has been in the job for a few years and is settled in the role. The Russians remain something of an unknown quantity in most respects (apart from that they are better than England, not that this is saying much), and Greece will be likely to come into Euro 2008 with much the same game plan as they had four years ago. No-one could break them down then – will they be able to this time around? Greece – What Are Expectations Like? Well, they’re higher than...

Read More

Keeping The “Dream” Alive

I’m not a God-fearing man, but this weekend we have at least seen confirmation of the existence of Lucifer, because the only way that the events that unfolded in Tel Aviv last night could have come about in the way that they did must have been as the result of a very late pact between Steve McClaren and the devil. With the scores tied at 1-1 and time running out, Russia hit the post with a shot that could have knocked them out of the European Championships. Within a matter of seconds, the ball was at the other end of the pitch, and Omer Golan scored a critical goal. Had the score ended 1-1, England would have needed to beat Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday night. As it is, a draw will be enough, and Croatia warmed up for the match by losing in Macedonia. If (or when) England get knocked out on penalties in the quarter-finals next summer, I don’t want to hear any sobbing over how unlucky they’ve been. They used up all their luck for the next twenty years last night. So, a place in the finals is there for the taking, however little England deserve it. The good thing about this is that everything is much more of a black and white issue. England are plenty capable of losing to Croatia on Wednesday night, and...

Read More