Because the light-hearted lyrics of Kalinka, a folk-style tune composed by Ivan Larionov in 1860, blasted across the cavernous Luzhniki Stadium, a contemporary soccer cathedral of sanitisation and capitalism on the banks of the Moscow River, Russians awaited ‘the game of our lives’ as striker Artem Dzyuba coined it. Certainly, this was Russia’s first World Cup knockout sport in 32 years, the Soviet Union faltering Four-Three towards Belgium on the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Within the stands an enormous banner depicted Dzyuba lifting the World Cup, a press release by the hosts and their vociferous followers. In any case, Russia enjoying Spain in the Spherical of 16 had not been a part of the script. For months, if not years, it had been a moot level that the Sbornaya had been to fail at their very own get together and ignominiously exit in the group levels. As a substitute, they shocked in Group A, demonstrating nice power and zeal over 270 minutes, if considerably much less so towards Uruguay.
The proposition of Spain, the masters of the trendy possession sport, was at all times daunting for the hosts, however not one with no sliver of hope. The Spanish had endured a dysfunctional marketing campaign on the World Cup, Fernando Hierro bizarrely stepping in for the Actual Madrid-bound Julen Lopetegui, breaking his head over La Roja’s brittle defence.
Within the 4th minute, Aleksandr Golovin flickered and skittered ahead, brimming with self-confidence, the CSKA Moscow participant a shiny star for Russia in the group levels, however alas his forays had been all too uncommon for the staunch hosts who had set-up to stifle Spain’s elaborate passing sport, switching to a again 5. Out of possession, Russia performed a 5-Four-1 formation.
Within the 12th minute, catastrophe struck for the staff of Stanislav Cherchesov, conceding the ‘most Ramos of goals ever’ on a set piece, a Russian weak point. The Spanish captain and Sergei Ignashevich had been engaged in rugby earlier than the ball bounced of the defender’s leg and into the online. Ramos’ overblown celebration advised he had scored, besides he hadn’t even touched the ball. He conned everybody, however the TV replays didn’t lie, displaying Ignashevich’s horrendous ordeal, scoring an personal purpose throughout a World Cup on house soil whereas being thwacked by Ramos.
Not that Russia had complaints concerning the purpose. Spain had been doing what they wished, monopolising possession and nearly sleepwalking by the primary half, spurred on by the magnificence and imaginative and prescient of Isco. The possession stats shot as much as over 75 %, a measure of Spain’s dominance. The hosts had been insipid and restricted, however Spain’s lateral faffing about didn’t inflict extra injury. The Spaniards handed themselves foolish and as a substitute buckled on the first signal of ‘sterile’ Russian stress.
What adopted, when Dzyuba dispatched his penalty to equalise, was Russian ecstasy, a hurricane of hysterical cheers and noise filling the monumental spaceship-like Luzhniki. Russia weren’t merely an afterthought at this event, however competing with the worldwide elite.
By the hour mark, Spain had about 514 passes and a 90 % completion fee, however that stat was slightly meaningless. The hosts sensed a heist was on. Cherchesov changed Aleksandr Samedov with essentially the most Spanish of Russians, poster boy Denis Cheryshev, who got here by the Actual Madrid academy and spent most of his life in Spain. Together with his two objectives in the opening sport, he turned Russia’s nice new cultural sensation. The Luzhniki gave him a standing ovation. Hierro responded, substituting the light-weight and disappointing David Silva, however to little avail.
Russia didn’t need the ball again and didn’t muster correct counters because the second half descended right into a stalemate, a battle of sterile attrition with Spain enjoying rondos across the Russian field, nonetheless with out penetration and concepts. The Spanish had been relentlessly unproductive and sluggish.
Spain, it appeared, had been intent on inflicting ‘death by passing’ on their hosts, however the fading stylists from Iberia performed themselves into oblivion. They handed and handed, however by no means handed Russia. The Russians performed their hearts out, overlaying 108 km by the tip of the 90 minutes, six greater than Spain. Within the group levels, they recorded the third-highest distance, averaging 110 kilometres per sport. They buzzed rather less towards Spain, however had been buoyant as the ever-present “RAS-I-YA!” chants rolled down from the stands, and the house followers hesitantly adopted Iceland’s thunderclap.
Russia sat so deep that they had been nearly enjoying past Moscow’s third ring highway. They grappled, lunged, tackled, chased, scrapped, and ran, ran. The sport turned stultifying. On the finish of the 120 minutes they’d clocked up 146 km. Even watching a replay of Ukraine-Switzerland on the World Cup 2006 appeared a deal with now, however Cherchesov cared little for the gorgeous sport. Russian obstinacy endured and in the end prevailed, goalkeeper Akinfeev the unlikely hero. He dived, fists outstretched, in celebration into the grass because the followers, and a rustic, roared.
“My feelings are easy,” stated the Cherchesov after the sport. “The match is now over, and I’m already thinking about the next game.” He was about the one Russian to stay so stoic. In downtown Moscow, in the neighborhood of the Purple Sq., a whole bunch of 1000’s of followers shrieked and shouted, exulting in victory. Mayhem engulfed the capital. Russians had been in a collective state of trance and rightly so: they’d simply watched the sport of their lives.