When it comes to spy games and intelligence collection (as well as hand-to hand combat and ice hockey to an extent), Russians hold the wood. But when it comes to the likes of football intelligence and genuine soccer mastery, well, let’s just say that they make the NSA look like Garry Kasparov.
Unsurprisingly, Russia exited the 2018 FIFA Confederations Cup at the Group Stage, bested by worthy World Cup regulars in Portugal and Mexico. Their only noteworthy effort? A straightforward 2-0 shutout victory for the hosts over…unfancied Oceanian power New Zealand.
“We have warmed hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month and have given some reasons to feel optimistic,” embattled Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said. The gaffer is potentially staring at an imminent sack, despite his rebuffs that he will maintain his position. “There are some things we can do, others we can’t, but the team played their hearts out and I don’t think anyone watching on TV or in the stadium can have any doubts about that.”
As we noted on our preview of this tournament, Germany, Mexico, Portugal and Chile are well on their way to settling who wins the Confederations Cup. But what of Russia? It is clear that unlike their hockey counterparts, there are no major names that have been heralded.
“Around 75 percent of our players hadn’t played in such a big tournament before,” Cherchesov reminded the media. “Maybe new ones will appear. I hope that our next matches will be played against top teams, we have won the hearts and minds to an extent in this month we have been together and we have some reasons to feel optimistic.”