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 Posted by Michael Yokhin
Jun 26, 2014

Assessment: Russia's epic fail

Russia coach Fabio Capello addresses the media about a laser interrupting goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev before Algeria's equalising goal.

Russia have bowed out of the World Cup in the group stages and ESPN FC blogger Michael Yokhin gives his verdict on the brighter points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.

One sentence, World Cup recap

A disastrously lifeless performance, finishing winless in what looked like a very manageable group and missing out on a superb chance of reaching the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Star Man

Vasily Berezutskiy emerged with immense credit from the tournament. The CSKA Moscow central defender was needlessly separated from his twin brother Aleksey, who was omitted from the squad for mysterious reasons, but put in a very solid performance alongside fellow CSKA stopper Sergei Ignashevich. Berezutskiy was named captain a couple of days before the tournament started, and tried to lead by example, even though that wasn't easy given the circumstances. Ridiculed at the start of his career, Berezutskiy gradually improved to become one of the most respected players in Russia in recent years. He certainly deserved to try and prove his worth against the potent Germany attack in the round of 16 game, but it wasn't to be.

Of the many blunders made by the Russian team in Brazil, Igor Akinfeev dropping a shot into his own net may be the worst.

Highlights

Virtually none. That's what is so outrageous about Russia's performance in Brazil -- there won't be any positive memories at all for the fans. The brilliant header by Aleksandr Kokorin from an exquisite Dmitriy Kombarov cross against Algeria was a beauty, but even that will be quickly forgotten given the disappointing final result. Even Australia, Iran and Honduras gave their fans more reasons to smile than Russia.

Low Points

The 2014 World Cup will definitely be remembered as the low point in the illustrious career of Igor Akinfeev. One of the best keepers in Russian history, he committed two extremely costly mistakes that directly contributed to the fiasco. Dropping a simple Lee Keun-ho ball into his own net against South Korea will be mentioned in the same breath as the worst goalkeeping error by a Russian keeper ever: Aleksandr Filimonov against Ukraine in Euro 2000 qualifiers. Missing a free kick by Yacine Brahimi and allowing Islam Slimani to score the equaliser for Algeria meant that Russia are going home instead of qualifying for the second round. Overall, though, the whole tournament -- and especially negative tactics by coach Fabio Capello -- is one big low point.

Lessons Learned

It is clear that Capello is not the coach who can lead Russia in the future. That is the lesson, but it won't be learned because the Italian has already signed a contract until 2018 with an annual salary of 9 million euros. It will be virtually impossible to sack him, and he won't resign. Slim hopes remain that some John Terry-style conflict could force him to go away.

Another lesson is that the current Russia side isn't good enough to compete at the highest level. It is not the best generation, and sadly there aren't any promising youngsters who are coming up ahead of the 2018 World Cup that will be staged on home soil. Capello has already stated that Russia should give citizenship to foreign league stars, like Krasnodar's Brazilian striker Wanderson.

That will be a disastrous route to follow. A very serious overhaul of youth systems is needed. Additionally, Russia must try and persuade the best players to move abroad and play in the best leagues, in order to prevent stagnation. That is easier said than done.