Tournament hosts Russia emerged victorious for the second year in a row in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Cup today following a 4-2 win over arch-rivals Ukraine in St Petersburg.
The form guide going into the final suggested that Ukraine were the favourites over Russia. The Ukrainians finished top of Group C ahead of Lithuania, Moldova and Turkmenistan with a 100% record before fate decided that they would meet two of their group opponents in the knockout rounds; Moldova were thrashed 5-0 in the quarter-finals before Ukraine won by the odd goal in three in their semi-final against Lithuania. Russia, on the other hand, won one and drew the other two games in Group B but still managed to top the group ahead of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan who they also beat in the quarter-finals before they won their semi-final match against Belarus by two goals to one.
The final, played before a 10,000 crowd at St Petersburg’s Sports and Concert Complex, turned out to be a goal fest. Russia took the lead after just five minutes through Nikita Bocharov only for Vladyslav Kalitvintsev to equalize just ten minutes later. The Russians would end the first half holding a 2-1 advantage following Andrei Panyukov’s 38th minute strike but Ukraine levelled matters for a second time after the break when Vitali Ivanko made it 2-2 just after the hour mark. Panyukov bagged his second goal of the game in the 75th minute to re-establish Russia’s lead for a third time, one which they would fail to relinquish. The deal was sealed in stoppage time when Emin Makhmudov scored from the penalty spot and gave the host nation title glory for the second year in a row.
Having begun as a pre-season tournament for champion club sides from the former Soviet republics, the CIS Cup decided to change in 2012 in order to incorporate national youth teams. This was as a result of the waning interest shown to the competition by various club sides that preferred either to spend pre-season training in warmer climes or to participate in much more financially lucrative pre-season competition elsewhere. Nevertheless the competition has gained a renewed sense of purpose under its current guise and today’s final between two talented teams of youngsters shows that this competition might just have a vibrant future yet.
With the 2012 UEFA European Championships due to begin this coming Friday, Stoppage Time takes a look at all four groups going into the tournament. First up is Group A which includes tournament co-hosts Poland as well as the Czech Republic, Russia and Euro 2004 winners Greece.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Best Performance = Winners 1976 (as Czechoslovakia); Runner Up 1996 (as Czech Republic)
The Czechs have a distinguished record in the European Championships. In 1976, as part of Czechoslovakia, they won the trophy following a penalty shoot-out victory over West Germany. In the post-independence period, the Czechs reached the final of Euro ’96 but were thwarted by Oliver Bierhoff’s Golden Goal winner in extra-time. They are far from fancied to get anywhere near the final this time around but have a reasonable chance of reaching the quarter-finals. The Czech Republic qualified for this tournament finishing in second place in Group I behind runaway leaders Spain and then negotiating their way through a play-off against Montenegro. If the Czechs are to progress far in the tournament much will rest on the shoulders of Euro 2004 top scorer Milan Baroš in what is expected to be his last international tournament. At the back UEFA Champions League winner Petr Čech will be instrumental in keeping what could be a potentially brittle defensive line in check.
COACH: Michal Bílek
FIFA WORLD RANKING = 26
GREECE: Best Performance = Winners 2004
The Greeks stunned Europe when winning this competition in 2004, defeating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final in Lisbon. They had seldom qualified for the tournament before their unexpected victory and failed to get beyond the group stage in 2008. Nevertheless the Greeks will fancy their chances of progressing this time in what is arguably the weakest group of the competition. Greece came top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F with an unbeaten record and clinched the group with a two point margin ahead of Croatia. If Greece are to reach the group stages then the experience of Euro 2004 winner and captain Giorgos Karagounis will prove to be crucial whilst striker Theofanis Gekas will hope to keep up his impressive goal scoring record for his country.
COACH: Fernando Santos
FIFA WORLD RANKING = 14
POLAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 2008
It is something of a mystery that a country which has finished in third place on two occasions in the FIFA World Cup has only ever been able to qualify for the European Championship just once. The Poles made their debut in this competition four years ago and finished bottom of a group containing Germany, Croatia and co-hosts Austria. This year’s tournament co-hosts expect to do better this time around with the trio of players from Borussia Dortmund – Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Łukasz Piszczek – hoping to transfer their fantastic form at club level into success at international level.
COACH: Franciszek Smuda
FIFA WORLD RANKING = 65
RUSSIA: Best Performance = Winners 1960 (as Soviet Union); Semi-Finals 2008 (as Russia)
As a member of the former Soviet Union, the Russians were part of the country to be crowned inaugural European champions when they defeated Yugoslavia 2-1 in the 1960 final played in Paris. Three further finals were played in 1964, 1972 and 1988 as part of the Soviet Union but they all ended in defeat. Since independence the Russian national team has qualified for all but one of the European Championships since 1992 but only got beyond the group stage on one occasion in 2008. The Russians lost out to eventual winners Spain and any repetition of four years would represent a good tournament this time. Russia qualified for the tournament after finishing top of qualifying Group B two points ahead of the Republic of Ireland. Forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has won back-to-back domestic league titles with Zenit Saint Petersburg, looks set to be Russia’s most influential player.
COACH: Dick Advocaat
FIFA WORLD RANKING = 11
GROUP A FIXTURES
08/06/12 Poland v Greece
08/06/12 Russia v Czech Republic
12/06/12 Greece v Czech Republic
12/06/12 Poland v Russia
16/06/12 Poland v Czech Republic
16/06/12 Greece v Russia
CSKA Moscow, defending title holders of the Russian Cup, have been sensationally knocked out of this year’s competition having gone down to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of second-tier club Volgar-Gazprom Astrakhan. A goal in the 88th minute from Alan Chochiev ensured that the Army club, who have won six Russian Cups in the last decade, will not retain the title this time around. CSKA’s misery was complete in the 90th minute when Vasili Berezutski was shown a red card.
CSKA’s conquerors will now face FC Fakel Voronezh in the Round of 16 after the latter got the better of another Premier League club FK Krasnodar winning by the odd goal in three. It wasn’t a great day for the city of Krasnodar as its other team, FK Kuban, also lost to a lower league team in the form of Dynamo Bryansk who needed extra-time to see off their more-fancied opponents by a 3-1 score line.
For many of Russia’s traditional big clubs it was business as usual in the Round of 32 with the biggest winners being Dinamo Moscow whose 5-0 win over M. Saransk included a brace from Andrei Karyaka. 2010 cup winners Zenit St Petersburg came through with a 3-2 win over Khimki whilst Spartak Moscow had Welliton to thank as they won 1-0 against FK Istra. Premier League sides Anzhi Makhachkala and Terek Grozny saw off the challenges of Volga Ulyanovsk and FK Nizhny Novgorod respectively but Rubin Kazan, back-to-back Russian Premier League champions in 2008 & 2009, needed a penalty shootout to get past Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast following a goalless draw between the two sides.
The draw for the Round of 16 stage has been made with the tie of the round being Dinamo Moscow, currently third in the Russian Premier League standings, hosting fifth place Anzhi Makhachkala. Ties are expected to be played in late September.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Russia following the announcement made by FIFA president Sepp Blatter this afternoon. The 2022 tournament bid was won by the small Middle Eastern state of Qatar which had demonstrated the huge amount of wealth that they intend to invest in stadia and infrastructure as a result of winning the bid. For both tournaments it will be new territory as neither region has hosted football’s biggest competition before and it proves, with Russia’s status as an emerging power politically and Qatar’s economic muscle, that FIFA has chosen to go with the new world order.
When Russia’s former President Vladimir Putin opted out of going to the Zurich for the two days of intense politicking and bidding many saw this as a sign that he wasn’t confident in the bid. However it seems that he may well now have a change of heart and get on the first plane now that his country was ultimately successful in their quest. This afternoon saw Arsenal FC and Russia football star Andrey Arshavin make a passionate speech in favour of Russia’s bid and it helped turn the tide in their favour. Many experts predicted on Wednesday that England’s bid had been boosted by the presence of David Beckham to such an extent that they had become favourites to win it. This was such a dramatic change of fortune for the English bid following a terrible start to the week following the broadcast of an English TV documentary making allegations of corruption against certain FIFA members. Perhaps the tide turned once more last night following some disturbing scenes in an English League Cup tie between Birmingham City and Aston Villa, which saw rival fans throw a flare and numerous seats towards each other. Nonetheless the Russians were also up against joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland but rumours had circulated before the announcement that FIFA officials were not happy with the idea of another jointly-held tournament. All in all it seems that Russian strengths as well as rival weaknesses combined to give them the honour of hosting their first ever tournament in eight years time.
The Qatari bid t0 host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was given the thumbs up following a tightly fought contest also involving previous hosts the United States, Japan and South Korea as well wannabe first time hosts Australia. It seemed only a few weeks ago that FIFA were concerned following the publication of a report in which views relating to security concerns were aired, suggesting that the country was “a high overall operational risk”. However the talks over the last couple of days have done much to calm fears regarding the subject as well as the Qatari team providing guarantees in other areas. The Qatari delegation, led by chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, made their final presentation speech to the FIFA Executive Committee on Wednesday sandwiched in third place in the running order amongst the five candidates. The victory for Qatar means that the country can really show the world well in advance of the 2022 tournament what it can do as early as next year when the Middle Eastern nation hosts the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Luciano Spalletti has led Zenit St Petersburg to the Russian Premier League title in his first season in charge. The success means that Zenit have won the league championship twice in the last four years and ends the two year reign of deposed champions Rubin Kazan. The victory also continues the duration in which a Moscovite club has not won the league title, the last club from the capital who won the championship was CSKA Moscow in 2006.
Zenit St Petersburg had a glorious chance to secure the championship earlier in the week at home to CSKA Moscow, the only team with any chance of preventing them from winning the league. However things didn’t go according to plan and CSKA Moscow won the match 3-1 in order to keep the title race interesting for another couple of days at least. Any doubts that Zenit may have had were quietly dispelled during their game on Sunday against FC Rostov who were simply overwhemed by their hosts in a 5-0 defeat. Danko Lazović’s 40th minute penalty was all that separated the two teams at half-time and the visitors continued to make life difficult for Zenit until the final fifteen minutes of the game during which the floodgates opened. Sergei Semak doubled Zenit’s lead in the 75th minute before further goals from top scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Bukharov (2) sealed a fantastic win for the St Petersburg side whose second Russian Premier League title was sealed following CSKA Moscow’s failure to win away at Spartak Nalchik.
For Italian coach Luciano Spalletti it has been a truly remarkable first season in the Russian game in which he has won both the 2010 Russian League and 2009-10 Russian Cup – which was won in May against Sibir Novosibirsk – as well as having a wonderful time in the UEFA Europa League in which Zenit currently lead Group G with a 100% record after four matches.
Zenit Saint Petersburg enjoyed great success under the guidance of former coach Dick Advocaat from 2006-09. In that era they won their first Russian Premier League title in 2007 and the treble of UEFA Cup, Russian Super Cup and European Super Cup in 2008. The European success was very special for the team from Russia’s second city as it came only three years after CSKA Moscow had won the UEFA Cup and thus entered an exclusive club of Russian teams to have won a European trophy. Since then things have gone a bit quiet as Rubin Kazan have dominated the league in the last two seasons winning back-to-back titles but things could be about to change under the guidance of Luciano Spaletti.
Zenit Saint Petersburg currently lead the 2010 Russian Premier League table by six points from second place CSKA Moscow after thirteen games, with defending champions Rubin a further point behind in third place. Zenit are currently the only unbeaten side in the league and have already chalked up a win in the 2010 Russian Cup final in May having defeated Sibir Novosibirsk. It is impressive form that Zenit are showing and they have done it without being overly reliant on any one player to score the goals. In fact the goals have been spread amongst a number of players in the squad and the solidity of the defence ensures that not too much gets past keeper and club stalwart Vyacheslav Malafeev who has been with the club all of his career.
Vladimir Bystrov has been an essential part of the team with the right winger scoring five times in twelve league appearances so far and is the club’s top scorer at the moment. Danny has re-ignited his form this season after a difficult 2009 season in which he only played eight games and has scored four times in his attacking midfield role. Roman Shirokov has also contributed to the goalscoring from midfield as Zenit’s attacking players of Alexander Kherzakov and Danko Lazović have struggled to hit the net with such prolific players from elsewhere on the pitch. Even Belgian left-back Nicolas Lombaerts has scored more goals than the attacking pair as Zenit show that they have options all over the pitch when it comes to hitting the back of the net. But it’s not just about the attacking side of matters. Zenit’s defence has only conceded five goals in thirteen matches – only Rubin Kazan have conceded fewer at the moment (three goals). Nonetheless the experienced Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, coaching outside of his native land for the first time in his career, has made Zenit compact but direct at the same time. They are adept at turning defence into attack and have profited, in particular, from the pace of Bystrov down the right side.
Zenit’s most recent game in the league was at home against their opponents from this year’s Russian Cup final Sibir Novosibirsk. Goals from Lombaerts and Roman Shirokov gave the home side a 2-0 win to keep the gap between themselves and CSKA, 1-0 winners away at bottom club Krylya Sovetov, to six points. WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
It is around this time of year where most of Europe’s major leagues are just getting into the business end of the season whereas in some other countries the season is just about to start for yet another year. There are three cases of the latter occurring in Norway, Sweden and Russia this weekend and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews each of these championships ahead of the big kick-off:
The Allsvenskan kicks off on Saturday afternoon with last season’s runners-up IFK Göteborg away at Kalmar FF with the record champions from Gothenburg hoping to begin to make up for last season’s disappointment of finishing four points behind AIK Solna. The champions celebrated the domestic league and cup double last season and, only last weekend, won the 2010 Swedish Super Cup and will want to carry on this winning momentum with an opening weekend win at home to last season’s Superettan (second tier) champions AIF Mjällby. Former European Cup finalist Malmö FF have been struggling in mid-table obscurity in recent years and haven’t won the Swedish championship since 2004. They hope to improve on this by beating GAIS away with former Sweden international Roland Nilsson, the coach of Malmö, going back to the Gothenburg side which he managed between 2002-07. Djurgårdens, who survived in the Allsvenskan thanks to a two-legged play-off victory over Assyriska at the end of last season, will hope to begin with three points over Häcken BK whilst newly-promoted Åtvidabergs will want to impress or, at the very least, avoid embarrassment by gaining something from their game away at Örebro SK. The other three matches on Matchday 1 sees 1999 champions Helsingborgs play IF Brommapojkarna, Halmstads BK at home to Trelleborgs FF and Gefle IF at home to Elfsborg IF.
Record champions Rosenborg Trondheim secured their twenty-first Tippaligaen title in 2009 finishing a comfortable thirteen points ahead of nearest challengers Molde FK. Erik Hamren, who coached Rosenborg to the title last season, will stay with the champions until August when he takes full responsibilty for the Swedish national team, a job he has been doing on a part-time basis since November last year. Rosenborg begin the defence of the title with as tough a test as they could’ve wished for; an away trip to last season’s runners-up Molde! SK Brann Bergen will hope for a title challenge this season with last season’s Player of the Year Erik Huseklepp hoping to make as much impact as in 2009. SK Brann begin the campaign with a home match against last season’s Adeccoligaen (second-tier) champions FK Haugesund whilst the other promoted sides Hønefoss BK and Kongsvinger, who qualified via an end-of-season play-off in 2009, play against Tromsø IL and Strømsgodset IF respectively. Aalesunds FK, who are coached by former international Kjetil Rekdal, begin 2010 with a home match against Lillestrøm SK for whom former Manchester United star Henning Berg is in charge. Stabæk IF, whose defence of the title last season was unsuccessful, will face-off against Odd Grenland whilst Viking FK start their season against Vålerenga, whose 2005 championship triumph feels so long ago now while in the remaining game on Matchday 1 sees IK Start play Sandefjord Fotball.
Having won the Russian Premier League for the last two seasons Rubin Kazan’s main ambition for 2010 is to make it a hat-trick of titles, for the side based in Tatarstan have high ambitions to become the new dominant force in Russian football. Having beaten record champions Spartak Moscow by eight points in the 2009 season Rubin will want to take charge of the league from the beginning and they have considerably more match practice than their opponents as they have been in UEFA Europa League action in the last month whilst the rest of the league have been in training camps or playing friendly matches abroad. The champions’ campaign begins on Sunday, three days after their UEFA Europa League tie with VfL Wolfsburg, with a home tie against Lokomotive Moscow. Elsewhere Valeri Karpin begins his first full season in charge of Spartak Moscow, having replaced Michael Laudrup last season, and sees his charges begin with a home derby against Dinamo Moscow. Zenit Saint Petersburg, with Italian Luciano Spalletti in charge following the departure of Dick Advocaat, begin away at Krylia Sovetov Samara who were close to dropping out of the Premier League due to financial difficulties but got a last-minute stay of execution having attracted some new sponsors. CSKA Moscow get the show on the road on Friday night with a home game against Amkar Perm and hope that Miloš Krasić will continue the good form that he showed last season, especially in the UEFA Champions League. Two teams who hope to improve on average campaigns last season are FC Rostov and Tom Tomsk who meet each other this weekend and will want to better their 14th and 9th place finishes from last season. Three promoted teams will get their campaigns under way with tough home ties. Last season’s First League (second-tier) champions Anzhi Makhachkala, Sibir Novosibirsk and Alania Vladikavkaz (the 1995 Russian champions) play against Spartak Nalchik, Terek Grozny and FC Saturn respectively.