ON TO QUARTER FINALS! 4-3 RUSSIA DEFIES ODDS, DEFEATS SPAIN

By Alexander Mashchenko

Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Spain vs Russia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 1, 2018 Russia players celebrate during the penalty shootout REUTERS/Carl Recine
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By Alexander Mashchenko – They first fought off the Spanish “attacking”, and then beat them in a penalty shootout

At a press conference after the match we lost with Uruguay, I promised Cherchesova to slap him after the game 1/8. And I kept my promise. Stanislav Salamovich and his team today really deserved a stormy long applause, turning into an ovation.

A small miracle, which was so hoped for, but which they feared to believe, happened. Russia won against the ex-world champions and Europe, who were called one of the main favorites of this tournament. My African colleagues-journalists named the way Russia played this match, anti-football. And, probably, there is some truth in their words. But only in this way and in no other way did we have a small chance to beat the Spaniards. The chance that we used. I am going to Sochi to prepare for the quarter finals.

The football world requires new heroes

Well, now to place this all in context. According to the results of the group tournament, the current world champions went to the Germans. Yesterday they formed the company two main superstars of modern football – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  “Oh, send home now also their partners for Barcelona and Real Madrid,” I thought before the game.

The football world requires new heroes. As they say in Russia, a holy place is never empty. And we have someone to take it. We have Cheryshev, who has already scored three goals here (more than his own, so far only with the Englishman Kane, who had pummeled the helpless Panamanians, the Afro-Belgian Lukaku and the Portuguese Ronaldo who had already left home). We have an almost two-meter forward giant Dzyuba, who at this tournament and speaks well, and plays well – an extremely rare “combination.” “Each of us will have to die on the field,” said Artyom before the game. – For 95 minutes, 100 minutes, as needed. It will be necessary to turn yourself inside out, but to have this team spirit. In football, and this is what is so beautiful about it, on a given day, any team can beat any other. If we all get out and play not just at our maximum, but at 200-300 percent, I believe it’s true.

And we also have a fine strategic player Golovin, who is hunted by superclubs, a two-spirited Spartak player Zobnin, who can run across any opponent, and the real “father of the Fatherland” Akinfeev, who proved today that he is better than de Gea, who is called the best goalkeeper in the world.

Well done, guys!

Cherchesov released in the starting lineup of five defenders, leaving in reserve Cheryshev. At the same time, three of those who came to our field played with the Spaniards at the 2008 European Championships and were twice beaten – 4: 1 in the group and 3: 0 in the semifinals. The Spaniards in those matches took part Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and David Silva. How is it going to happen this time?

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Ours are in white T-shirts, but this is not a white flag. Nobody doubted that Spain will quickly take control of the footwork and the ball and will push to besiege the Russian fortress. The hope was that our fortresses are not sieged too many times, and Spain in its present state should definitely bring something strong to the game.

As the great hockey player, State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Fetisov said before the game, the country will wish our team success with all the fibers of the soul. You just need to turn these emotions into a quality game and try to take a chance. There is a chance, it should be used.

We met our rivals, dug in the trenches, as if like battles for Moscow or the siege of Stalingrad. Where there was nowhere else to retreat. Nevertheless, the match began – you can not imagine anything worse. Zhirkov knocked on the left flank of Nacho. The Spaniards filed in the penalty area, and the ball shot by Sergio Ramos, hitting the leg of  Ignashevich, jumped into the net – own goal. Now the Russians will have to walk forward, they will start opening zones, and this can end sadly. But our people persevered and did not go forward anyway, realizing that if they missed the second, it would be the end of the show. The chance appeared after the corner. Dziuba struck his head and the ball landed in Pika’s hand. Then a penalty, which Artyom confidently managed. 1: 1. It seems that the Russian team has finally a real leader who can lead the others.

There was no shortage of goals in this game. Almost all remaining until the end of our time spent in their half of the field, holding back the attacks of the Spaniards. Yes there, you saw it yourself. The Spaniards owned the ball 74 percent of the game time against our 26, hit 25 on the goal (of which 9 on target) against our 6 (on target – 1, the same, Dzyuba, with a penalty), but it ended up for them nothing.

And in a series of penalties, nerves were stronger among our guys. The main hero was Igor Akinfeev, who repulsed the blows of Koke and Aspas. And our beat was unmistakable. Smolov, Ignashevich, Golovin and Cheryshev.

Players have already gone to the locker room, and two words continued to rattle over the Luzhniki stands. One – “mo-lodtsy.” The other is mu-ji-ki.

Yuri Zhirkov will recover only to the … finale

After the game, Akinfeev, recognized as the best player of the match, was the first to report to the journalists. Igor was as always brief. “I do not feel like the best player in the match,” he said. “The best player in the match is the team and the fans.” Well, all that was needed, Akinfeev said during the series of eleven-meter.

Stanislav Cherchesov also tried not to show joy. “Ten years ago at the European Championships the Spaniards beat us twice,” the coach recalled. “Then our team tried to play with them on the oncoming courses. But what there is a sin to conceal, the Spaniards know how to do something better than us – why bother? I think that we have chosen the right tactics to play the second number. I think if we played differently, then we would have less chances.”

Our quarterfinals will be played in Sochi, a city that is probably the best in Russia for a holiday. Play, alas, without aggravated Zhirkov’s injury. As Cherchesov said, Yuri, if restored, then only … the final. Well, it’s good that the plans of our coach – even if in jest – go so far. Well, the Spaniards now have to … listen to flamenco. “Sometimes I want to go insane and do not feel anything, for madness leads me to grief … I live in a world devoid of hope; I do not need to be buried, I’m buried alive,” the master of this genre usually sings on in such way.

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pnp.ru – translated by J. Flores

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