Were expectations met?
After missing out on the last two FIFA World Cups, few made bold predictions for Russia's trip to Brazil. Sports minister Vitali Mutko said a quarter-finals berth would be "a success" but most fans were prepared to settle for the last 16. Should it come as a surprise that Russia's campaign ended in the group stage? Realistically, no, for there were few stellar players in the squad and only one world-class name – coach Fabio Capello. Managing five scoring chances in three matches is simply not enough to fulfil lofty ambitions.
What the media say
Sovetski Sport: We played as expected – we did not thrash anyone and nobody thrashed us. It is not enough and it sounds a discordant note at a World Cup where everyone is enjoying scoring goals.
Sport-Express: The Russia team, in their current state, were not tuned in for a festival but for their own funeral. The verb 'to play' is forbidden, replaced by 'to run' and 'to work' and 'to fear'. The saddest thing of all is that Capello's deal runs until 2018 and there is no reason why he would decide to walk away.
What they say
Igor Akinfeev: "We understand that criticism is going to come our way. However, we are ready to get through it – the strong ones have to know how to take a punch. We have to go on living and enjoying our careers as long as God allows us to."
Fabio Capello: "The standard of players and teams at the World Cup is very high. We made small mistakes which cost us dearly. Of course, I will continue to coach Russia if they still want me. I believe I have done a good job considering Russia qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years."
Some pundits claim that Russia gained invaluable experience for the future in Brazil. Though that has a grain of truth, there is something else seemingly more important. The team showed that although they may lack flair and appeal, they can play a disciplined game and stick to their coach's instructions to the letter. Russia could have defeated both Belgium and Algeria and conceded two of their three goals through goalkeeping mistakes. Capello has instilled discipline and tactical proficiency that should remain in place for the coming years.
Room for improvement
Capello celebrated his 68th birthday in Brazil and can boast 15 trophies as a coach, but the Italian master is not perfect. The search for a prolific striker goes on, as the much-vaunted Aleksandr Kokorin shone just once in three matches, Maksim Kanunnikov disappointed when given a chance and Aleksandr Kerzhakov turns 32 in the autumn. The towering Artem Dzyuba could come into consideration.
Russia brought an experienced squad to Brazil, but Capello also included some younger players he trusted. Oleg Shatov and Kokorin, both 23, started all three matches, while 22-year-old Kanunnikov played 90 minutes against Belgium. Pavel Mogilevets and Denis Cheryshev did not feature, but were in the camp for over a month and should be in contention when Russia are hosts in four years.
Russia should hope for a relatively easy ride to France having been drawn in G, where they are the only country involved in this World Cup. Sweden are likely to be their main rivals, while Austria and Montenegro are also capable of springing a surprise.
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