The hosts bowed out of the tournament after a 2-1 defeat against Mexico.,..
Russia were outsmarted 2-1 by Mexico in Kazan last night in the ongoing Confederations Cup 2017. This defeat saw them heading out of the tournament, with only a year at hand to prepare for the World Cup.
The question remains if this Russian side is capable of putting up a good show next year? The match against Mexico, where they were defeated after a far from convincing performance despite starting the match brightly surely advertises against such a feat for the men in Red. So, what exactly went wrong for Stanislav Cherchesov’s men last night?
Russia started the match quite well. With the overwhelming support in the stands, the Russian players repaid the fans with an early goal as Aleksandr Samedov tricked Guillermo Ochoa to put the ball past him. However, the match turned out to be a race between a rabbit and a tortoise as the hosts seemed to run out of steam after the first third of the game.
The Mexicans, who were already having more possession than the hosts, anticipated the outcome and were clever to not waste the opportunity as they hit their counterparts left, right and centre which resulted in Russia conceding the equalising goal merely five minutes after scoring the opener.
Russia were certainly not at their strongest in this tournament. Among their five highest earning players, only one made it to the Russian squad in the ongoing Confederations Cup. Igor Denisov, Artem Dzyuba, Aleksandr Kokorin and Oleg Shatov, the experience and capability these players bring were sorely missed against Mexico and what happened during the 90 minutes was only a reflection of that.
After the equaliser the El Tri dominated the first half. While Mexico played the better brand of football, the Russian answer was not so convincing as they became more desperate, committing unnecessary fouls which came back to haunt them in the later parts of the match.
The Mexicans tactically outclassed Russia last night, there are no two ways about that. While they allowed Samedov to roam free on the wings and even inside their penalty box, the supply line, controlled by Yuri Zhirkov was completely shut down by comparatively shorter and less physical Mexican midfielders. Zhirkov, who was booked by the referee in the early minutes of the first half, was repeatedly intercepted and marked in the second half. This led the 33-year old to commit a foul on Miguel Layun, which earned him his second yellow card and finally a red effectively killing the game as a contest.
For Mexico, this was a typically plucky performance. They have now come from behind thrice in three matches. This is a side that never gives up. Juan Carlos Osono’s men have just enough quality to compliment their determination and fighting spirit. Despite not being one of the giants of the game the Central Americans continue to punch above their weight in continental and global tournaments as they show they can hold their own against any team in the world.
As for the Russians, a humiliating exit on home soil is more evidence of the work that still needs to be done ahead of next year’s extravaganza. Having an ageing defence, it is important for them to seek options to replace the Berezutsky brothers, Vasily and Aleksei, and Sergei Ignashevich as well as finding a prolific striker to take better care of finishing chances at the big tournament For, it is essential for them to at least qualify for the knockout stages at the World Cup. This will ensure a competitive tournament which will sustain the enthusiasm and interest of local fans whivch is vital for a successful hosting of the event.