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National team of Russia: mess and spectacle at Stade de France

Leonid Slutsky's wards defeated by France 2:4

It is a sheer luck to have a rival in the person of the hosting national team of the coming EURO in a friendly and play with him at the main arena of the future football event! This is why neither the Russian Football Union nor the national team of Russia had doubts about going to the match in spite of the fact that in neighbouring with Belgium, which suffered from a shock, France, which has a quick remembrance of its autumn tragedy, the situation is anxious and increased safety measures were taken. Realnoe Vremya tells about how a match of the tricolour rivals turned into a feast of football and mess at the same time.

Everything will be fine

Aleksander Kerzhakov, who is closer to the European realias than his mates, calmed the TV viewers down saying something like this. I'm convinced that even if Charles de Gaulle Airport was closed according to the model of the Brussels, the national team of Russia could find a way to get Saint-Denis on 29 March by train or even by bus. It is a French commune where one of the favourites of the coming tournament in an excellent shape was waiting for the Russians. And Leonid Slutsky, who supposes that the national team of France of the beginning of the 80s is the best national team in football history, would go to this objective exam even on foot.

The rivals had an excellent disposition for the match. The host team gave a real dressing-down to the 'wooden' Dutch in Amsterdam, especially in the first half. The latter might be justified by a critical psychological state when they said goodbye to great Cruyff. But after the break, the 'flying' not Dutchmen but 'Gallic roosters' relaxed their guard and let the opponent equalize the score, and made Didier Deschamps state that, 'We will have much work to do' in spite of the victory.

The Russians confidently coped with the 128th team of FIFA rating. However, unlike the meeting at Amsterdam-Arena, the greatest difficulties were before the break – the Lithuanians looked as good as the Gézas' descendants during the first 45 minutes. Slutsky managed to look at almost all candidates and some of those who just debuted in his team (Kritsyuk, Ivanov and especially Golovin) made the most pleasant impression.

Petersburg and Moscow national teams on the pitch

The ruler of our team warned a day before the match that the squads of his teams for the matches with Lithuania and France will be different because of the different 'weight divisions' of the rivals. Having compared the first eleven that appeared at Stade de France on Tuesday and opened the season of the national team at Otkrytie Arena, we really saw that 90% of the people were new. Only Aleksey Berezutsky started and played the first half of the meeting against the Lithuanians but was substituted by Golovin after the break , who won an honour to be in the first team in France. Akinfeev returned to the goals, Vasily Berezutsky, Kuzmin and Zhirkov were in defence, and the midfield was dressed in a 'military triangle' (militaries is one of the nicknames of CSKA) headed by Shirokov, and Petersburg was given a complete control over the attack. Finally, the first team of Russia was represented by clubs of two capitals of the country – CSKA and Zenit. And a defender of the third capital of the country Oleg Kuzmin from Rubin Kazan was responsible for Russia, forgive my tautology.

It was natural that Deschamps changed a bit his squad in comparison with the match in Amsterdam – Varane, Evra, Lassana Diarra, Pogba and Griezmann preserved their positions. They are those who joined the battle against the Netherland from the second half and organized a quick goal, which significantly affected the course of the whole match. Griezmann, Gignac and Kante were the heroes of a beautiful combination that opened our defence as a canned meat. And a 'Leicester imp' performed the role of the can opener, who is threatening to turn into a midfielder with a great potential if he has enough 'physics'.

One-way game

Kante's goal was a picante additive to a delicious meal of the French cuisine, and the match became a one-way street. Deschamps' wards even did not have to fight for the midfield – the midfielders of our team, who were identified on the pitch with difficulty as well as their colleagues in positions from Rubin in Premier League matches, dissolved in a rainy Paris evening. Only old-time Kuzmin who risked his health and a perspective to see a yellow (even a red) light of the referee tried to build a dam as a beaver to stop the 'blue flow' just a bit. It is clear that Lithuania and France cannot be compared but remembering 'lawnmower man' Tarasov and quick-moving Glushakov you understand: these people understand the principles of the game in defence, but it is questionable whether this donkey and hard work is interesting for 'our everything' Shirokov and always up-and-coming Dzagoev.

Hopes for substitution of uncool squad

We just could hope for the substitution of at least a half of the uncool squad. But the same faces ran to the wet lawn of Stade de France from the changing rooms and almost muffed a course of the combination Kante-Gignac that ended with a header of the latter a bit above the goalpost. Only one face changed – Lodygin substituted Akinfeev in the goals. If only Slutksy had known what an 'uncommon expression' this new face was going to have…

Then your author, who expected nothing good 'from this life' was ashamed – Its Excellency football is guilty! An ideal cross from the penalty area by Dzagoev exactly moved towards Kokorin who spectacularly and effectively jumped and accurately nodded to the corner of the net. It cost loud applauses if it was not worthy of a missa. It became curious, is it possible that the 'tricolour' allows everyone to salvage 0:2? A goal scored by newly-arrived Payet's direct kick from the penalty area demonstrated that the 'offer' came into effect last Saturday and simultaneously dispelled the last doubts concerning the naturalization of Guilherme.

Oh, no, the host team of EURO prolonged the 'offer', though earlier it seemed that the national team of Russia would face sanctions, not offers. Zhirkov started and completed a combination, where Shirokov's backheel and Shatov's side-foot were performed. It showed that we can achieve something with the help of not only the upper but also the lower body.

It became funnier to live

It became better to live, it became funnier to live. If Aleksander Panov were on the pitch, the leader of Splin Vasilyev could write a sequel of his hit song after the match. Unfortunately, 'Kolpino rocket' (Panov is from Kolpino) was not there for clear reasons. But, unfortunately, his compatriot ex-forward of Zenit Lodygin was on the key position. And after his next 'curtsey', we wanted to execute a 'denaturalization' of another goalie in answer to the naturalization of Guilherme – for instance, from the Varangians to the Greeks. The only advantage of the participation of Lodygin was that the coaching staff felt better solving an uneasy problem of the choice of the first goalkeeper of the national team. It is no surprise if his place is occupied by Kritsyuk or even Dzhanayev.

Let them pass. The national team of Russia had only two really beautiful goals under its belt in this funny match, which is not little… The game proved the rightness of Deschamps' words – his team will have much work to do to forget this persistent Gallic thoughtlessness and hospitality and turn from the star squad into that disciplined star national team, which terrified its rivals when the very mentor was the captain.

No crunch time won't help us

But if the Frenchmen manage to do this work during the remaining months, no crunch time won't help us then. The Russians demonstrate at times that they can play football and do it quite well. But as for the organization of the game, the number of people who imagine it is equal to the majority of the participants of the Championship of Africa. In Africa, they also have beautiful and spectacular goals. But no one top national team of the Dark Continent has not reached the podium at world level yet. I would advise Leonid Slutsky to write down the surnames of all candidates for his national team, put them into a lucky dip and take out a variant of the first eleven for every next game, including the three coming (is it possible to think about more matches?) matches in EURO. Then all people can relax and just enjoy. Slutksy won't do it but we will. Because the most important thing is not winning, but taking part. It was said by a compatriot of the 'tricolour' if somebody forgot. And we do take part!

By Aleksander Norden, photo:

Realnoe Vremya, 31.03.2016

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France 4-2 Russia
International Friendlies
April 29, 2016
Saint-Denis. Stade de France
Attendance: 65000
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
France: Lloris (c), Sagna, Varane, Sakho, Evra (Mathieu, 46; Digne, 54), Diarra, Kante, Pogba (Sissoko, 69), Griezmann (Payet, 62), Gignac (Giroud, 79), Martial (Coman, 46)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Russia: Akinfeev (Lodygin, 46), Kuzmin, V. Berezutski, A. Berezutski, Zhirkov (Smolnikov, 69), Dzagoev, Shirokov (c) (Mamaev, 70), Golovin (Glushakov, 80), Kokorin (Smolov, 80), Dzyuba, Shatov (Samedov, 88)
Coach: Leonid Slutski
Goals: Kante (8), Gignac (38), Kokorin (56), Payet (64), Zhirkov (68), Coman (76).
Yellow cards: Kokorin (36), Kuzmin (46), A. Berezutski (63).

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