Russia won the inaugural Croatia Women's Cup as part of their preparations for UEFA Women's EURO 2013.
Coach Sergei Lavrentyev took only 18 players to Rovinj, explaining: "These are the players who showed themselves in the best possible light during two previous training camps." Once there they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 and Slovakia by the same score to reach the final, where they overcame the Czech Republic 4-2 on penalties following a goalless draw.
The trip to Croatia was the chance to bounce back from the 5-0 loss in Finland last month, which even with an experimental lineup was a blow. It took them 14 minutes to score against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Elena Terekhova taking full advantage after a good pass by Olga Petrova. That proved enough for victory, and against Slovakia their qualifying top scorer Natalia Shlyapina struck late on.
However, the Czech Republic were expected to put up the toughest test in the final and so it proved, Russia unable to score despite their opponents having two players sent off. Victory was achieved in the shoot-out, with Elvira Todua taking the competition's best goalkeeper award. Her understudy, Elena Kochneva, was the only squad member not to get some playing time.
"The aim of this tournament was to get our defending and tackling right and we achieved our goals," said Lavrentyev, who will fill the remaining places in his squad on the basis of form in the Russian league. "I'm happy we didn't concede a single goal, but we have to work now on our attack. All in all this tournament was very helpful. We were favourites so we had to play on the front foot and it's a very important experience."
Shlyapina added: "We came here to win and gladly did it. The last match was the hardest. First of all it went all the way and our opponents fought selflessly and stood strong. I had to play despite an injured leg, but the will to take part in the game overwhelmed the pain. We all did well – both players and coaches."
Russia next travel to Denmark on 8 April and in UEFA Women's EURO 2013 Group C play France, England and Spain.
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