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  • Russia is a very big country.

  • And football in Russia has a long history that stretches back to the late 19th century.

  • But why has Russian football failed to reach the heights that you might expect?

  • The first official football match in Russia

  • took place in October 1897, in St Petersburg.

  • But it wasn't until 1912 that the pre-Soviet Russian national side played its first official game,

  • losing 2-1 to Finland at the Stockholm Olympics.

  • Incidentally Russia went on to lose 16-0 to Germany in its second match,

  • a consolation game at the same Games.

  • All in all not a great start to international football,

  • but surely the might of the USSR could sort things out.

  • Sport in the former Soviet Union was considered hugely significant for international prestige.

  • Accordingly, colossal amounts of resources were pumped into sporting infrastructure.

  • The new Soviet authorities gradually set about

  • organising a nationwide league.

  • Football clubs were usually linked to the state institutions.

  • Although it never lifted the World Cup,

  • the Soviet Union produced such legendary players as

  • LevBlack PantherYashin and Oleg Blokhin.

  • It did however win the inaugural European Championships in 1960,

  • after a 2-1 victory against Yugoslavia in Paris.

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991

  • meant that Russian clubs were thrust into the exciting

  • world of free market football! (Coughs).

  • Without the great rivalries between Russian and Ukrainian and Georgian teams,

  • the Russian league struggled to attract interest and money was tight.

  • As living standards plummeted, and violent crime rocketed amid the post-Soviet chaos,

  • few people had time for football.

  • The 1990s were dominated by Spartak Moscow,

  • which won the Russian league championship every year but one between 1992 and 2002,

  • coasting to the title most seasons.

  • Post-perestroika, the national team struggled.

  • Russia failed to qualify for the 1998 World Cup

  • and the 2000 European Championships.

  • And at the 2002 World Cup, the team failed to get out of its group.

  • A 1-0 to defeat to Japan was met by mass rioting in Moscow.

  • In the mid-2000s, with global prices for oil at record highs, Russian businessmen began

  • to invest in the country's top teams.

  • CSKA Moscow were sponsored by Roman Abramovich's Sibneft oil company,

  • while Zenit St Petersburg were showered with cash by owners Gazprom,

  • Both sides were able to attract high-quality foreign players.

  • CSKA were the first Russian side to lift a European trophy,

  • winning the 2005 Uefa cup.

  • And the feat was repeated four years later by Zenit, who beat Rangers 2-0 in 2008.

  • This period also saw unprecedented success for the national team,

  • reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008 under the management of Guus Hiddink.

  • But the success of the 2000s was a false dawn

  • for both the national side and Russia's clubs.

  • Russia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and put in dismal performances

  • at Euro 2012 and 2016, and the 2014 World Cup.

  • Russian club sides have also not reached those heights since.

  • Still, as the Russians are inordinately fond of saying,

  • Hope dies last.”

Russia is a very big country.

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How Russia became lowest ranked team at the 2018 World Cup

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/06/14
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