Now former Russia head coach Dick Advocaat has left the biggest country in terms of population (and area) in Europe in a state of shock as they were surprisingly eliminated at the hands of Greece this evening.
After thrashing Czech Republic 4-1 on opening night, Russia looked a cert to be in the knockout stages of Euro 2012 and likely to win group A.
That result was followed by a 1-1 draw with Poland which saw the host nation come out on top in the second half and were even the more-deserving winner, although not greatly testing Vyacheslav Malafeev after the equaliser.
In both of these games, striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov had squandered several opportunities, failing to hit the target once. The Zenit St. Petersburg striker was given a third opportunity in the first half against Greece this evening. Once again failing to hit the target before being replaced by Roman Pavlyuchenko at half-time.
Giorgos Karagounis gave the Greek side a surprise half-time lead when he took advantage from some terrible Russian defending from a thrown-in to open the scoring. The heartbeat of the Greece national team and Panathinaikos central midfielder also deserved a penalty in the second half when he was tripped inside the penalty area. Instead, he was wrongfully booked for diving and now misses the quarter-final through suspension.
Russia lacked a plan B other than to bring on more attacking players, which included Marat Izmailov who had 2 goals in 34 international appearances and coming off a six-year exile prior to this tournament. He failed to deliver. There was a constant barrage of long-range efforts with little effect from Russia, whilst their short-distance chipped passes down the wings didn’t produce a great number of crosses into the box.
Dick Advocaat is leaving for his homeland to take charge of PSV Eindhoven ahead of next season. After the high expectations heading into this tournament ahead of a World Cup in Russia in 6 years time, the former Netherlands and Belgium manager won’t be welcome back to Russia any time soon.
The Dutch coach failed to build on fellow countryman, Guus Hiddink’s success 4 years ago where he guided the then-outsiders to a surprise semi-final appearance, before going out to the eventual winners, Spain. Failure to qualify for the South Africa World Cup lead the Russian Football Union to go with Advocaat. Qualification for this tournament came in a group that consisted of Slovakia, Republic of Ireland, Macedonia, Armenia and Andorra.
A 14-game unbeaten streak heading into the tournament, as well as 4 points from their opening two games at Euro 2012 game Russia every reason to be confident of progressing far in this tournament. Now they are left with disappointment.
To add insult to injury, Michal Kadlec’s stoppage-time goal line clearance to deny Jakub Blaszczykowski in the other game in group A was the difference between Russia finishing 1st and 3rd.
Hats off to Greece after heading into their final game with 1 point, and given no chance by myself of progressing from the group at this stage, for pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far. I’m just bitter than it cost me 4/5 and 19/1 bets.