FIFA World Cup 2018: How Russia Defied the Odds
The World Cup is where the best football teams in the world play. This is no place for the weak, as competitiveness in the event is sky-high. Reigning champion Germany was the favorite to win the title, along with Brazil.
Unfortunately, the campaign ended abruptly for the former after being eliminated out of the group stage. It was a tragic loss for them as the underdog South Koreans defeated them 2-0. The previous World Cup champion was left scoreless.
Even Messi and his Argentina were kicked out of the contest after being defeated by the mighty French. No one expected these teams to get knocked out early on. However, no one also thought of seeing Russia survive the onslaught of the group and Round of 16 stages.
Russia, who’s among the weaker teams in the World Cup, making it to the quarter finals, is a huge surprise for everyone knowing that they lack any superstar. What makes things even more interesting is that they defeated the mighty Spaniards in a grueling matchup.
Each team had one goal each, however, it was their penalty kick that made a difference. Surely, the Russian team captivated everyone.
Before the World Cup started, everyone was skeptical about Russia's fate in football's grandest stage. The side of StanislavCherchesov isn't much of an achieving force. In fact, they're pretty decent as their number of strengths and weaknesses are somewhat balanced.
In simpler words, there’s nothing striking about the team. Their offense might be good, but it’s not the most consistent. Even their defense and midfield games go offline at times. It’s just startling to know how an underachieving team made it deep into the competition.
Nonetheless, the journey is not yet over for them. Only Croatia stand in their way of dominating the World Cup. The semi-finals are just a step away from them, and it's up to the Sbornaya to go full throttle in achieving their goal.
Built on teamwork
Lots of things can be drawn from the Russian team. First off, one of the main reasons why they survived this time is because of their closely knit squad. The players are in sync with each other and each knows their respective roles.
It’s a game changer for the Russians knowing that they’re not used to these slow but sure gameplays. They’re well known to be aggressive players who go beyond one’s comfort zone with the goal of outcompeting each other in the team.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with Russia’s current team. It took StanislavCherchesov two long years to gather up the squad. Numerous players have come and gone into the drafting lineup through the years.
This means that the players currently playing for Sbornaya are chosen very well. They’re the best fits to the Russian team, so to speak.
The team, fortunately, gathered up a rock-solid unit where each player's main mission is to support one another with the hope of snatching the title. This is how all teams should act, and Cherchesov made sure that this is how their team is going to be.
IlyaKutepov, center back of the Russian team, said in an interview that their secret to success is teamwork. He specifically stated that it's not only their starting players that do all the job for them but the entire squad as well.
This includes the bench players, the backroom and coaching staff, as well as the fans that are very supportive of them. He implied that this is the first time that the Russian team achieved such a feat.
Though the contest is not yet over, their chances of winning, as well as their confidence, had been boosted thanks to these factors.
Kutepov added that he could feel that they are united as one. He continued saying that it didn't matter if one player was playing or not because the players on the field get the full support from all sides.
The 24-year-old Kutepov then concluded his statement that they are reaping the rewards of their teamwork.
Support from the fans
Having IforAkinfeev in the Russian squad dealt a huge blow to their opponents as he had been on peak form throughout the competition. Specifically speaking, his assists and contribution to the offensive and defensive games of Sbornaya had been on-point since the start of the World Cup.
Take for example his leg save on the penalty of Iago Aspas. The crowd at the Luzhniki stadium erupted after the save. This shows how motivating and inspiring the game becomes once everyone cooperates and supports one’s goal.
However, it wasn’t just Akinfeev who saved the day as everyone contributed to their achievement. Sbornaya midfielder Roman Zobnin said in a statement that he is sure that the outcome of the game would have turned out differently if they played in another country or if the crowd that cheered them weren't there.
This shows how important their fans were to their success in the early stages of the competition.
Specifically speaking, Zobnin said that 95 percent of the credit could go to their fans because they supported the team from the beginning. He also said that he and the rest of Sbornaya find their fans' support to be overwhelming and very helpful to their cause.
Zobnin then added that it's because of this that they had no option but not to let their fans down.
One of the major criticisms thrown at Russia over the years was that they didn’t work very hard to achieve their mission. However, that’s not the case now as things had changed drastically. Indeed, playing the World Cup on home soil made a huge difference with how the players played.
Even sports analysts around the world can see how the Sbornaya brought out their best since they played against Saudi Arabia at the start of the World Cup. A 5-0 victory over them was a hint of greater things that are to come.
Then came their game against Egypt which they won 3-1. For sure, more victories will happen in the next games of Sbornaya.
It was through fighting and holding out through which ArtemDzyuba, Striker for the Russian team said they could win, and that is with muscle aches and pains, and cramps will follow suit.
While the odds have not always been in their favor, he believes that they have been of great help to them today. He is proud and considers it a huge honor to be part of the team. He congratulates everyone for being amazing, as they were giving it their all, on their feet towards the end.
It was through selfless sacrifice, structure, and discipline that led to their victory, which he believes would work out better than just relying on class.
Smart Tactics Planning
The system of tactics that Russia employs in every game is not at all easy to determine. The host team has made it a point to take advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses, adapting to them with every game.
Without a doubt, the planning of Cherchesov on a game-to-game basis has delivered astonishing results.
Zobnin also says that they have thoroughly analyzed Spain, specifically on their attacking methods, their weak and strong points alike, and the issues that they have with defense. The game plan was followed as rigidly as they could.
Because of this, despite knowing how good the opponent was in attack, they managed to withstand and keep them at bay.
There were some exceptions though, but they made sure to not give the opposing team any sort of edge over them, thus cementing their chances at victory.
Apart from brilliant minds behind the team’s strategies, much of the praise also goes to the team’s fitness coaches, Vladimir Panikov and PaulinoGranero.
Looking at the physical stats, team Russia is well ahead in this year’s World Cup, which includes pressing intensity, possession recovery, and pressing intensity.
Graneroexplaines that in the past two years, they have been trying to keep up with positive trends, with the team showing that they have good physical fitness.
Discipline is key to this training, as the players have taken it to heart that the world cup is the perfect time for them to put their best foot forward.
How are the players doing?
Before the start of the tournament, the 22-year old who hails from Serbia has been poised to become the brightest young star of Russia, and from how he has been doing, he has indeed, managed to live up to this title.
Playing as a midfielder, he managed to perform exemplarily in their game with Saudi Arabia, giving one score and two assists in the said match. He was also performed astonishingly during their Egypt match, but he ended up missing the match versus Uruguay to dodge the yellow card.
While he should not have been a part of the World Cup, having retired from the team two years back, he managed to make a return as a means of responding to Cherchesov's emergency call, who, after a series of injuries has lost three team members.
This appearance of his effectively makes him one of the top appearance makers of Sbornaya. Moreover, he continues to perform better and better with every game.
He’s turning 39 on the 14th of this month, and should Russia be able to get past just one more match; he'd be celebrating his birthday in the midst of the World Cup. Sergei wisely sent the opposing team's goalkeeper the opposite direction in which the ball was headed to, thus leading to a score for his team.
In their match versus Spain, he has proven himself to be effective, albeit Russia not spending much time in the attack. The odds were in favor of "Sasha" in the shootout phase, which his attempted strike managing to get past De Gea's body, making it into the goal center.
So many trophies and matches have been won by Akinfeev in the past years, but the World Cup match has served to be a huge career milestone for him.
He is regarded as the country's best goalkeeper, who is on-par with Lev Yashin, who managed to play an astounding match when they truly needed it.
On the goal, Spain had a total of 25 shots. One was done by Akinfeev, who let managed to deflect from the shin of Sergei Ignashevich, but managed to do nine saves total in the game, with a further 2 in the penalty shootout.
Should he have read the effort of Koke the way it should have been read, the Iago Aspas' could have been believed to be miraculous.
Akinfeev is also known for saving a penalty during his first game as part of the Russian team.
Russia vs. Spain
Thanks to penalties, the team coming from this year’s host country managed to earn a win in this World Cup’s inaugural shootout.
Igor Akinfeev managed to save Koke’s effort, just in time before the spot kick that unceremoniously failed managed to put Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in a limbo.
While things seem set sail smoothly for La Roja, who managed to keep Luzhniki silent at the beginning, a set-piece, which gave Spain the opportunity to lead on.
One of Sergei Ignashevich’s nuisances turned out to be Sergio Ramos, with the defender making the ball into a net of his own.
Russia, however, did not sulk during that night in Moscow, with ArtemDzyuba cheering loudly amidst his match with Pique and Ramos, with his won arguments against Pique causing the Barcelona man to handle inside of the box.
Dzyuba managed to step up the plate, sending De Gea in the wrong way.
The other half of the game saw a clear pattern of possession and counter-attacks between the Spanish and Russian counter-attacks, respectively. Apart from Andres Iniesta’s save by Akinfeev, none of the teams, in normal time seemed like they were in it to win it.
A penalty shootout versus the winners of 2010 was earned by Russia following a bold defensive performance, with Akinfeev being hailed as the hero. Spain, however, needed to make the most of the 120 minutes.
Spain managed to keep the game in their control from the get-go, but the defenders of the Russian team made keeping their pace a lot more challenging on their part.
While La Roja managed to give the team a great first half of the game, things took a sour turn the moment a penalty was given.
Adding Andres Iniesta in the mix also proved to change the whole pattern of the play, where Spain looking more confident after he stepped in. De Gea was unsuccessful in keeping the Russians out, and from the spot, Koke and Aspas were not successful either.
Through being unceasing, Russia has managed to bring the game plan to life on the field, even if things started for them rather roughly with a goal gained by Sergei Ignashevich through pressure from Sergio Ramos.
ArtemDzyuba, the team’s tall striker aced every single aerial battle, albeit having a penalty for one of these, converted by the No22.
The game managed to get into a stalemate the moment the break was over, where opposing styles were being employed by the two teams. This led them to no teams managing to score during the normal time’s second half, nor for the time that followed after.
Most of the extra time was spent by Russia defending while keeping firm on the aim to get a shootout, with an ambition coming to an end.
Despite Russia sweeping their opponents in previous matches through intensive study on their opponents, banking on their opposing team’s weaknesses while learning to counter their strong points and the odds, of course, being in their favor.
They still ended up losing to Croatia with a 4-3 score, with points earned on penalties.
The first goal was earned by Brozovic for the Croatian team, with the first goal delivered by Russia the minute after. While a stunning opener was delivered by Cheryshev that caused Russia to get the lead, the score was equalized by Croatia’s AndrehKramari 8 minutes after the 31st.
The goals were earned successively in what was one of the tensest most nail-biting matches ever, with almost all the goals earned towards the end of the game.
The very last goal which cemented a 4-3 win came from Ivan Rakitic, despite the evening out of Russia by Kuziaev, just a minute apart. This effectively places Croatia on a match against England, which still reels from a dramatic turn of events.
While it’s a moment of celebration for Croatia, it spells the end for the Russian dream, with their chances of making it any further coming to a sad end.
Now, the Croatians made it into the finals and will battle it out for supremacy against the French this Sunday. As to who the winner will be, we still don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, and that this will be a matchup for the ages. It’ll be a game to see.
Indeed, the Russians did have a great run this time. For sure, their chances of getting the title next time around would be higher than now.