It has been an exquisite journey, but the outstanding World Cup run that set thousands and thousands of individuals dreaming throughout Russia’s 11 time zones is lastly over.
There’ll all the time be the reminiscences, and if it needed to finish in any respect then a minimum of there was one remaining wonderful second that no Russian fan current in Sochi on Saturday evening will neglect for the remainder of their lives.
Maybe the giddiest level of the host nation’s journey into the quarter-finals got here right here, when defeat was nonetheless not an choice and Mario Fernandes headed an equaliser towards Croatia within the 115th minute.
The environment within the floor had been electrical all night, each transfer up the pitch gaining quantity because the match went on earlier than reaching spectacular noise ranges with Denis Cheryshev’s chic opener.
That aim, and Fernandes’ dramatic extra-time leveller, counted for nothing but the reminiscences ultimately – as Croatia went through 4-3 winners on after spot-kicks.
It was a merciless approach to finish all of it, but within the wake of defeat it needs to be remembered that these had been thrilling moments no one right here had anticipated to expertise.
The final time Russia – as a part of the Soviet Union crew – appeared within the final eight of the World Cup was 1970, and earlier than the match two huge banners appeared within the crowd.
They learn: ‘If not you, who? If not now, when?’
At 21:00 native time, in a stadium dealing with the solar setting on a blue Black Sea, Russia had been two wins from an opportunity to intention for the largest prize in world soccer.
Such prospects had been been merely unthinkable earlier than the event started.
Russia had didn’t win in seven friendlies. There was speak of them turning into solely the second host nation in World Cup historical past to fail to achieve the knockout stage.
But then this unbelievable dream of a journey started with that 5-0 victory over Saudia Arabia on opening night, 14 June.
The TV commentators had been screaming – 5! 5! 5! 5! 5! – because the digicam minimize to supervisor Stanislav Cherchesov’s mischievous moustachioed smile. Maybe he all the time knew?
lya Zubko, a journalist who covers the nationwide crew for Rossiskaya Gazeta, did consider a minimum of: “I have been across the facet for a very long time and all the time felt it did have qualities that maybe had not been confirmed,” he says.
“But Russia is a rustic whose soccer supporters are likely to veer between extremes. Every little thing is both very, excellent, or completely horrible. So in fact no one was anticipating such an excellent opening outcome.”
Regardless of the massive win, there wasn’t anyone among the many followers I spoke to in that first week who was settling in for the lengthy haul.
In a rustic the place ice hockey rivals soccer strongly in reputation, many nonetheless refused to simply accept it was something greater than a one-off. Some would solely begrudgingly concede they could watch the subsequent one towards Egypt.
I saved telling individuals: You are at residence – that adjustments every little thing. And when it did, once more, finally individuals started to agree. Egypt had been swept away too, in a Three-1 win that meant a spot within the final 16 was protected.
But first there was the difficulty of who would end prime. Russia’s remaining Group A recreation towards Uruguay would settle that. The outcome despatched individuals’s expectations plummeting downwards as soon as extra.
On the bus again from the Samara Enviornment after Russia lost 3-0, followers bought on chanting: ‘We’re Russia and we’re doomed.’ There have been these extremes once more.
What gave the impression to be worse than defeat was the very fact a knockout recreation with Spain now awaited.
But that is the land of the hero goalkeeper, and within the metropolis the place Lev Yashin constructed his unmatched status, the nationwide crew’s present primary Igor Akinfeev saved two penalties to send Russia through – into the quarter-finals.
Now we actually had been in territory unknown. I used to be again in Samara that night, watching the match on TV but a witness to the unbelievable scenes of pleasure that burst out into spontaneous mass celebrations on town’s streets.
It was a magical evening – you felt the entire nation, a nation of 144 million, was united in smiles.
Then got here the remaining days. TV montages exhibiting Akinfeev’s save time and again and once more. “Earlier than the event no one believed, now they had been all heroes,” Zubko says.
Putin referred to as Cherchesov to say effectively executed. “Simply an additional increase for us,” the supervisor stated on Friday.
I seen parallels with England at Euro 1996. Russian followers had been even beginning to play ‘It is coming residence.’
Denis Kazansky, commentator for Match TV, in contrast the rising temper to “what occurred on the European Championships of 2008, when the entire nation celebrated the miracle in Basel, an extra-time victory over Netherlands that despatched us via to the semi-finals”.
Kazansky provides: “Besides the response to beating Spain in Moscow was even greater. Folks even named their youngsters after the gamers, and Cherchesov was now greater than a coach. He turned ‘The Mentor.’
“From the primary day we had not been anticipating a lot from our crew. Then ideas turned to profitable the factor.
“What we’ve seen is a major change in individuals’s attitudes, and within the historical past of Russian soccer.”
There have been two chapters of Russian soccer that definitively closed within the wake of Saturday’s loss as 38-year-old defender Sergei Ignashevich introduced his retirement and 33-year-old winger Aleksandr Samedov ended his time with the nationwide crew.
For Zubko, the event of Russian soccer from right here relies upon a minimum of in some half on the way forward for its youthful stars, like 22-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin.
“After the Euros of 2008, Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko moved to Arsenal and Tottenham respectively,” he says.
“Now we are going to see if any of this squad make an identical transfer to leagues of a better commonplace than the Russia’s, like in Spain, Germany or England.”
He provides: “But in addition the crew wants continued help to maintain its success.
“After the success of Euro 2008, when the crew did not qualify for the World Cup in 2010 attitudes modified in a short time.
“Let’s hope that now in the event that they for no matter motive battle to achieve the subsequent European Championship in 2020 that the identical factor does not occur once more.”
Because the mud begins to settle and folks start to look again on these well-known previous 4 weeks, there shall be time to consider the factors raised above. Though there will not be an terrible lot of it – the Russian home season begins once more in July.
But there’s another scheduled cease for the nationwide crew on Sunday. Once they return to Moscow, they are going to go to the fan zone near the Luzhniki Stadium.
They might have performed there subsequent had they overwhelmed Croatia, in a semi-final towards England on Wednesday night.
As a substitute it’s a remaining probability to say thanks to the followers, and goodbye to a really particular time certainly.