Russia were unable to take too many positives from their opening display at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, but one of their most experienced players, Tatiana Skotnikova, is remaining upbeat.
Not only did Russia fall 3-1 to France in their first Group C game on Friday, young midfielder Anastasia Pozdeeva was also ruled out of the finals with a knee injury after coming off the bench. Russia have now failed to win all ten of the UEFA Women's EURO final tournament matches they have played, but Skotnikova, who replaced Pozdeeva in Norrkoping, knows not to panic.
"These finals are a great chance to see some teams' progress like Italy or Spain," the FC Rossiyanka midfielder told UEFA.com. "Two or three years ago, nobody seriously spoke about Spain and now they have beaten England.
"The development of women's football continues; it is becoming more similar to the men's game and I like that. In the earlier days, it was more about outrunning your opponents, and now France have proved women can get the ball down and play attractive football."
The 34-year-old is featuring in her third final tournament, having made her bow in 2001 and returning as part of the team in 2009. "Many things have changed during such a long period," she said. "Each new coach has his own approach, his own vision, and tries to make the team play his type of football. Unfortunately, they are not usually given a chance to finish the job and thus we were not as good as we could be."
Charged with putting that right is Sergei Lavrentyev. Appointed last October, he immediately led Russia through the play-offs and is fostering a great atmosphere in the squad. "We do not have those things like 'You are younger' or 'I am older,'" Skotnikova said. "Everybody wants to help; they come over after something happens and say which thing could be done better here and there."
Next up for Skotnikova and Co are England, who defeated Russia 3-2 in Finland four years ago after battling back from two goals down. As in 2009, England will go into the game having lost their opener, and Skotnikova is expecting another stiff test. "English teams always play with a huge desire," she said. "What we need is to play with more courage and be more aggressive."
Away from the pitch, meanwhile, the midfielder is relishing her role as a senior player. "I would not say it is an additional responsibility for me," she explained. "It is more a chance to give some cues to the younger girls – some technical or tactical things I got from my previous coaches which they might yet not know. Maybe I can cheer them up a little bit sometimes."
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