The Russian national team won a very important victory in the seventh round of the qualifying tournament for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In Kazan, she beat – 1: 0 – the Slovaks in a difficult match, in which everything was decided by Milan Shkrinjar’s own goal. This success saved the Russian team the chances to compete for a direct ticket to the Qatari championship with the Croats and, in fact, guaranteed it at least a second place in Group H, that is, participation in the play-offs.
The performance of the Russian national team in the Kazan match for a long time left an impression of those that are usually called controversial. Tormented by injuries, forced to present a squad full of such names, which a couple of months ago it was difficult to present in the application of the national team for the most important selection meeting for the World Cup, she faked a lot. The transition from defense to attack was badly glued, pressure looked like a weak weapon. In the end, the advantage – and by no means symbolic – in possession of the ball was with the opponent, who, in fact, never chases after him. In March, the Slovaks already had a chance to beat the Russian national team at home. So, in the return match, against the background of the owners, they even seemed to have gone through some kind of stylistic and quality upgrade. There was much more subtlety and persuasiveness in their football.
But at the same time, it still cannot be said that the effectiveness of the Russian team was zero. The discipline, dedication, durability of some football players helped – Dmitry Barinov, Daler Kuzyaev. Including in the attack. The Slovaks survived several unpleasant standards (once Georgy Djikia almost reached a discount that threatened to turn into a goal), a roundhouse kick from Fedr Smolov, which was pulled out by their goalkeeper Marek Rodak.
Then, however, they themselves responded to all this with a series of their unpleasant standards. But, perhaps, it was the fact that the Slovak team finally succeeded in pinning down the hosts that served them well. After all, this was overwhelming self-confidence a mile away from the episode in which Yurai Kutska fiddled with the ball in the Russian half, although he could have parted with them ten times. And the attack after the interception was great. Zelimkhan Bakaev, through which he was walking, held the ball, moving to the center. Sergei Terekhov connected in time to receive the pass. And Arsen Zakharyan, who got the ball after Terekhov, shot into the goalkeeper’s room. Falling across the cross, Rodak, of course, could not have imagined that Milan Skrinjar, the Slovak leader, the most reliable of the defenders, would also be spreading out on the lawn, trying to get the ball, and get ahead of him. This is how an own goal took place, which brought the Russian national team forward.
After him and until the break, she had to mostly defend herself – the Slovaks piled on really tightly. But the unluckiness of the opponents helped out – for example, Ivan Shrantz, who launched the ball from a lethal position past the far post, and also Matvey Safonov, who took a place in the goal. His most striking feat in the first half was a tall flight, which did not allow the beautiful blow of an angry Kutski to reach the “nine”.
Head coach Valery Karpin was apparently not happy with what was happening: right after the break, two new players appeared on the field for the Russian national team – Anton Zabolotny and Daniil Fomin, and Barinov, who had just closed the support zone, dropped into the center of defense. And at some point it was possible to decide that the changes helped the Russian team. Having withstood the difficult five-minute Slovak swoops, she began to catch the guests on the excessive enthusiasm for the offensive. There were plenty of promising counterattacks, but they usually stalled in front of the penalty area.
And the national team of Slovakia, having suffered, adapted to this situation and became more accurate. Now the picture on the field was too similar to the one that arises in the matches of the Russians against opponents of the elite category: they were engaged almost exclusively in destruction, they rarely touched the ball, and more often than not, in order to simply send it somewhere far from their own rear.
But the national team of Slovakia is still not the national team of Belgium or Denmark. Even having received space, the opportunity at times to freely place on it, she derived a minimum of benefit from this fact. The problem with the last pass, with the decisive blow – that was about her too. Well, Safonov once again saved the Russian national team, when Schranz suddenly found himself right in front of him.
The Russian team held out and won an important victory. She allowed her to keep up with the points ahead of her in Group H only by the goal difference of the Croats, who beat the Cypriots – 3: 0. And the Russian national team actually secured for itself at least the second position, that is, participation in the play-offs. Three rounds before the end of qualification, her lead from the next, in third position, the pursuer is already six points. Instead of the Slovaks, this pursuer was the Slovenes, who defeated the Maltese – 4: 0. It is with the Slovenian national team that the Russians will play their next match on Monday.