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RUSSIAN SQUAD' 2005

 

LATVIA - RUSSIA - 1:1

LATVIA - RUSSIA - 1:1 (1:1)
August 17 2005.
World Cup-2006 qualifying game.
Riga. "Skonto" stadium. 9700.
Referee Graham Poll (England).
Latvia: Kolinko, Stepanovs, Astafyevs (c), Smirnovs, Laizans, Zirnis, Bleidelis, Verpakovsky, Rubins, Rimkus (Prokhorenkovs, 77), Korablevs.
Head Coach Yuri Andreev.
Russia: Akinfeev, A. Berezutsky, Sennikov, Evseev, Kariaka (Bystrov, 57), Ignashevitch, Khokhlov (c) (Semshov, 67), Aldonin, Arshavin, Bilyaletdinov (Kirichenko, 83), Kerzhakov.
Head Coach Yuri Syomin.
Scorers: Astafyev (6), Arshavin (25).
Yellow Cards: Zirnis (27), Arshavin (29), Evseev (40), Astafyev (56), Aldonin (81), Verpakovsky (90).

LATVIA DENTS RUSSIA'S WORLD CUP HOPES


Russia huffed and puffed to an unimpressive 1-1 draw against Latvia in Riga on Wednesday, drastically reducing its already slim chances of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Germany as it failed to impress against a motivated Baltic side.

The game, partly overshadowed by tense political relations between the two former Soviet nations, sparked more passion off than on the field. On the pitch, Latvia always looked the more dangerous side and will be unhappy to have only drawn.

Russia remains in third place in Group 3, five points behind group leader Portugal. It will almost certainly have to beat Slovakia away and Portugal at home to have any remote chance of getting second place and a playoff spot.

"We didn't play very well, especially in the first half," said Russia coach Yury Syomin, who before the game had lost six players through injury and suspension. His voice almost gone from shouting at his players, Syomin added that the team lost the ball too many times. "I think it was a fair result. Both teams really wanted to win, and ... it doesn't help one team or the other."

Russia's Andrei Arshavin, right, challenges Latvia's Maris Smirnovs for the ball during Wednesday's match in Riga.

Russia's Andrei Arshavin, right, challenges Latvia's Maris Smirnovs for the ball during Wednesday's match in Riga. Photo: Roman Koksarov / AP.

Many Russian fans were looking for more than just a football victory. "We've waited for this all our lives," said one inebriated fan, Sergei Bezrukov, 31, a Russian railway worker who has lived all his life in Latvia.

Other Russian fans walked round in shirts emblazoned with the letters "U.S.S.R.," which did nothing to endear them to the Latvia fans.

Small sections of the crowd booed each other's anthems before the start of the game.

The Latvians scored first -- even before the game had started -- with fans holding up a poster with insults directed at President Vladimir Putin, enraging Russian fans. The Russian fans evened the score by holding up nationalist flags and booing loudly during the Latvian anthem. Russia fell apart within a few minutes of the start of the game as Latvia exploited an at-times hapless Russian defense with swift counterattacks.

Vitalis Astafjevs hit a stunning volley in the sixth minute, then Latvia almost doubled its lead with the comedy goal of the season, as the teenage CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev rushed out to challenge Dynamo Kiev striker Maris Verpakovskis, only for the ball to roll past him. Akinfeyev simply stopped running, assuming that the ball would go out of play, and Verpakovskis managed to steer the ball toward the goal from the narrowest of angles. But Dmitry Sennikov came to the rescue just in time to clear the ball off the line.

Russia looked lost midway through the first half, with Latvia creating many more chances with its swift counterattacks than Russia could with its attempts at patient build-ups. It was only the will of Zenit St. Petersburg striker Andrei Arshavin -- who, following a pass from Dmitry Khokhlov, battled through the defense to hit a shot that rebounded off Latvian goalkeeper Aleksandrs Kolinko -- that kept Russia in the game. He continued his run to knock the parry in.

In the second half, Latvia again outshone Russia, although neither of the teams ought to pose a threat, should they manage to qualify for next year's World Cup finals.

By the end, Russia was reduced to clumsy fouls to stop the Latvian side, which was still attacking swiftly on the break. It was only in the last five minutes that the Russian team managed to seriously threaten the Latvian goal. Alexander Kerzhakov hit the crossbar with a cross-cum-shot and then sank to the ground, his head in his hands.

Russia's World Cup chances may have gone at that moment.

Kevin O'FLYNN. The Moscow Times, August 18, 2005

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