We met with Abramovich, but lost. How Russia failed the most important match with Israel


We met with Abramovich, but lost. How Russia failed the most important match with Israel

On Thursday, the Russian national team will play the penultimate match of the 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament with Cyprus. Everyone rightly calls the Sunday game with Croatia the main one, but Cyprus still needs to be defeated. The situation is a bit like 2007. Then, in the penultimate round of selection at Euro 2008, the Russians played away with Israel. Few doubted the victory.

The match in Tel Aviv in November 2007 was supposed to be a demonstration of the power of Russian football. Defeated in Moscow, England dropped to third place in the group, so getting to the final of Euro 2008 depended solely on Guus Hiddink’s team. Beat Israel, which by that time had lost not only all chances for the playoffs, but also several leaders. And after that – Andorra. And that’s all – a ticket to Austria and Switzerland in your pocket. But problems arose in the very first match, as a result of which many resigned themselves: there was no chance of an exit.

80 charters to Israel

The game in Israel was initially presented in the Russian press as a formal meeting with a logical result. They believed in Russia too much after the dramatic victory over England at Luzhniki. This allowed Hiddink’s team to take second place in the group. And now everything depended only on her.

The entire Russian elite decided to become a part of the success. “KP” with reference to Sergei Kapkov reported that 80 charter flights from Russia arrived for the game. In Israel, they met Yuri Luzhkov (then mayor of Moscow), Sergei Stepashin, Mikhail Prokhorov, Leonid Fedun and many others. In general, Israel on that November evening certainly became a little more Russian. Before the match, thousands of people with the tricolor walked around the stadium, many of whom lived in Tel Aviv. And those who even rooted for the rival did not want Russia to be evil. Nothing was supposed to affect the result.

“We must break this team, even if 13 players enter the field in its composition,” Alexander Kerzhakov said emotionally before the game.

We met with Abramovich, but lost.  How Russia failed the most important match with Israel

Provocations came only from England. Local journalists did not believe at all in Israel, which theoretically could pull their national team to the playoffs. According to the British, the Israelis had to die on the field for the result. But that might not have helped either. Some journalists suggested that Roman Abramovich had already agreed on everything, so the result is a foregone conclusion.

The businessman really came to the game, received tickets from the hands of the same Kapkov and silently walked to the podium. It is unlikely that by the end of the match he was satisfied.

“Dead” Russia and Hiddink’s unfulfilled plan

The main problem for Guus Hiddink was the physical form of the players. The season in the Russian championship had already ended by that time, so many were preparing for a vacation. But the Dutchman understood how important it is to maintain tone, so before Tel Aviv he took the team to a heavy five-day training camp in Cyprus.

From there, the guys arrived physically ready, but not mentally. The meeting with Abramovich on the eve of the game, the general relaxed atmosphere led to an obvious underestimation of the opponent. Although the composition came out as strong as possible: in the center of the attack, Pavlyuchenko replaced Kerzhakov, otherwise all those who won a victory over the British appeared.

The Israelis created the first dangerous moment already in the 8th minute, but then the defenders carried the ball out from under the feet of Barak Yitzhaki. But two minutes later, that very Yitzhaki rolled out a pass to Eljaniva Barda – 1: 0 by the 10th minute. Do you think it made the Russians pull themselves together and fly to recoup? No. The team continued to control the ball without initiative, periodically reached the opponent’s penalty area, but even there they did not manage to create anything dangerous. Observing such helplessness, Hiddink replaced Semshov with Torbinsky in the 30th minute. The game in the center of the field became livelier. But then the whistle sounded for a break.

We met with Abramovich, but lost.  How Russia failed the most important match with Israel

The charged and aggressive Russian team entered the second half. But the emotions lasted for about 25 minutes. Bilyaletdinov equalized the score, and then the same apathy of the first minutes came. Again, nothing worked in the attack. Although it was at this moment that a goal was expected from Russia. At the very end, Sychev missed the last chance to score – he got the ball at speed and, surrounded by two defenders, struck. The ball touched the bar – a goal kick. And already in extra time Ignashevich made a gross mistake. Remaining the last defender, he lost the ball and Israel scored the second – a victory that left only a mathematical chance of making it out of the group.

But at that moment no one thought about these chances. The defeat was perceived as a failure, and the media were already talking about the chances in the selection for the 2010 World Cup. Hiddink himself described the reasons for the defeat.

head coach of the Russian national team

“Before the match, we analyzed the situation and tried to plan a possible scenario of the game. If we could not have conceded within one and a half halves, then I am almost sure that the opponents would start making mistakes and we could score a goal. However, failures in defense and midfield allowed Israel to score very easy goals. And the game, which we generally controlled, became extremely difficult for us. We didn’t have the last pass. This is the main reason for our lackluster performance. We are very disappointed. Perhaps in today’s match we should have been more fierce. Nevertheless, I want to thank the players for showing their best qualities. It is possible that they will help build a good team in the near future. ”

Even Gus was already thinking about the future. Nobody believed that the Croats, who had already secured their place in the final stage, would play with England to win the last match.

Miracle in London and Russian roulette

The national team went to Andorra with the same thoughts. The players demonstrated a complete lack of faith in the first minutes. The team attacked lazily, without much desire to change the score on the scoreboard. And she obviously followed what was happening at Wembley. At the end of the first half, the Russians suffered one goal – Torbinsky hung in the penalty area and Sychev was ahead of the outgoing goalkeeper. After that – calm play again and expectation of news from England.

They came the entire second half: 2: 1 in favor of Croatia, 2: 2 and finally 3: 2. Russia played out the last minutes with Andorra on a terrible nerve. As a result, the removal of Arshavin. It was impossible in any case to miss. But in the end, the victory was 1: 0, and the information that England lost. Glee. Russia will play in the final of Euro 2008.

– It’s incredible! – said Hiddink “SE” immediately after the final whistle. – Our team played Russian roulette at the finish of the qualifying round – and won! I am incredibly happy because we still got a ticket to the European Championship. But in the future, we must try not to bring the matter to such a heart attack ending. And, of course, we must pay tribute to the Croatian national team: I had no doubt that they would fight at Wembley for their honor.

As a result, Russia went to Euro 2008 and achieved the best result in the 21st century – bronze medals.


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