Russians shocked by Greek fiasco
Published: 18 Jun 2012 - 00:17:31
Russians expressed a collective gasp of shock on Sunday after their much-trumpeted national team were dumped out of Euro 2012 by Greece after making the previous tournament's semi-finals with flare.
Saturday's 1-0 defeat in Warsaw means the squad have still not progressed to the European championship finals since the days when Soviets also included players from the now independent Ukraine and Georgia -- among 12 other states.
"Shock -- there is no other word to describe it," the Sovetsky Sport daily said in a sentiment express by many.
"To lose such a match to such a team -- one that essentially has only two star players -- you really do have to try hard to do that," it said with an irony aimed at putting the team to shame.
Greece may quibble about their capabilities but few in Russia seemed ready to find it in their hearts to forgive the national team for losing a match they had to only draw to progress to the knock-out stage in Poland and Ukraine.
"I don't know what to say about our football," Russia's ice hockey star Alexander Ovechkin of the NHL's Washington Capital tweeted after the match.
"Should I drag their names through mud or just stay quiet?!"
Complaints could in fact have been much louder had the papers published Sunday editions in Russia.
But the tone of anger and disgust was picked up strongly by top websites while even state television -- never shy about lauding the national team or finding excuses for their failings -- did little to hide the disappointment.
"Few were prepared to see their national squad go home after this match," the Vesti state news channel said on its website.
Russian Football Union boss Sergei Fursenko for his part suggested that the Andrei Arshavin-led team would have done better had they faced tougher competition in a group that also featured Poland and the Czech Republic.
"As paradoxical as it may seem, we played better against better teams (such as) Germany and England," he told the Sport.ru website.
"This is not a catastrophe," he assured the nation. "You saw that the team played well."
Russia thrilled the masses in 2008 by displaying a flowing and attacking style that seemed so completely at odds with previous plodding post-Soviet performances.
But more or less the same players who had beaten the Netherlands against all the odds in the quarter-finals of the last championship had also comprised this one.
They were four years older and a few steps slower. They also suddenly had the pressure of an expectant nation to contend with -- a feeling that may be familiar to England players but has rarely been sighted in Russia.
Former English Premier League midfielder Andrei Kanchelskis said the side felt they not only had to win but also do it with the style of the likes of possession game masters Spain.
"They were trying to break down their (Greece's) huge defence with attacks down the middle. This was bound to end in tears. It is incredibly difficult and only the Spaniards can do that," said Kanchelskis.
"But the world champions are at a completely different level. We have to play based on our own players' abilities."
Many now expect the team to wave the veterans goodbye and welcome in the youth as advance preparations begin for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"Russian national football stands on the threshold of big changes," the Gazeta.ru website wrote. "A change of generations is at hand."