Euro 2016

Russia coach quits after shambolic campaign

TOULOUSE • The sight of Russian players passing around the captain's armband after skipper Roman Shirokov went off early in the second half spoke volumes about their shambolic performances at Euro 2016.

Shirokov was substituted in the 52nd minute of the embarrassing 3-0 capitulation to Wales, but nobody appeared to want to replace him as captain.

The armband was initially handed to Sergei Ignashevich, but he did not put it on, and eventually it found its way back to goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who half-heartedly accepted it.

That moment was one of several low points in an abject Russian campaign, which raised serious questions about their ability to trot out a competitive team when the country hosts the 2018 World Cup Finals - with President Vladimir Putin treating it as a prestigious occasion for the nation.

After the game, coach Leonid Slutsky, 45, threw in the towel as he accepted responsibility for the failure and said that he needed to be replaced.

"I take responsibility. I had enough time to find players. If we did not succeed, it is truly my mistake," he said. "Someone else should take over with a big championship to come."

Russia had already performed poorly against England, when they scraped an ill-deserved 1-1 draw, and against Slovakia in a 2-1 defeat.

Slutsky made several changes to the midfield, attempting to give it more punch, but that only played into Wales' hands, with the Russians open to devastating counter-attacks led by Gareth Bale.

Vasili Berezutski and Ignashevich, their two centre-backs with a combined age of 70, were left badly exposed repeatedly and Wales could have won by a bigger margin.

All but one of Russia's squad play their club football at home and Berezutski said more players need to go abroad to be exposed to a higher standard.

"We must develop players and change how football works," he said. "Players do need to move to Europe. We don't have any better players, these are the best 23."

The Communist Party of Russia's solution was more drastic for the team, who it said was as "soft" as the ruling United Russia party and only "for internal use". "We need a Stalinist mobilisation. Mental, physical hard strength."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Russia coach quits after shambolic campaign'. Print Edition | Subscribe