Ex-England manager accused of boring style
3 July ~ An hour before Russia's fateful World Cup group game against Algeria I read a tweet suggesting the game would be more important for manager Fabio Capello than for anybody else. Having avoided the play-offs by finishing ahead of Portugal in the qualifying campaign, the implication was that if Russia failed to beat Algeria and reach the knockout stage the team's fans would turn against the manager. And so it proved following the 1-1 draw.
Initially it was mostly black humour that appeared on the social networks – fans pointing out there was no need to complain as Russia had done just as well as Italy, England, Portugal and Spain. But it soon became clear that Capello's inability to take the blame and apparent lack of tactical flexibility was upsetting many.
The majority of fans seem to see his side as, in the words of Russian football writer James Ellingworth, "well organised but rigid... designed to spend 90 minutes under siege". This may have been the right approach against a talented Belgium side, but not so against more moderate opposition whose weaknesses were – in flashes – exploited when Russia ventured forwards.
Capello's €8 million (£6.3m) per year contract runs out only after the 2018 World Cup, but polls in the aftermath of the Algeria game saw clear majorities in favour of him losing his job right away. Many of those commenting on the polls online expressed similar sentiments to St Petersburg-based Serge: "Count me in [for his sacking]. I'm bored to death with his unattractive brand of football. Even with this mediocre squad we can play better."
Some have started looking towards Euro 2016, with the hope that an exciting player marginalised by Capello, the skilful but at times ill-disciplined midfielder Alan Dzagoev, will get his chance, along with the Russian Premier League's second-top scorer last season, Artem Dzyuba, who was left out of the final 23. Fans are divided over which of these mistakes was the biggest.
Other supporters hope that Russian players gain valuable experience abroad, and that the cap on foreign players in Premier League sides is lifted. (Clubs are currently allowed to have seven foreigners in their 11, though Capello wants this reduced to six.) Zenit St Petersburg fan Sviatoslav suggests this has led to Russian players becoming "vastly overpaid and complacent" – a view many share.
I am growing to accept that neither of the international teams I support – England and Russia – are very good when the heat is on. Italia 90 was a blip for the former, just as Euro 2008 was for the latter. I may need to settle for a few good qualifying campaigns, littered with appearances by decent prospects who never quite make it right to the top. Saul Pope