At the sound of the final whistle against Mexico, the Russia players slumped to the floor, before picking themselves up again and heading over to the stands to acknowledge the support. There were still plenty of Russian flags being waved, as the team applauded the crowd despite exiting the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 at the group stage.
The backing from the fans was probably the most pleasing outcome for the Russian national team. The Opening Match in Saint Petersburg drew over 50,000 to the stadium was followed by a sell-out in Moscow (42,759) and the Kazan Arena was almost at full capacity yesterday (41,585).
However much criticism the Sbornaya received in some quarters, their fans were still prepared to go to games and cheer them on, even after a painful defeat to Mexico in a game that was panning out perfectly until the 30th minute.
“We’ve tried to change how the fans view the team for the better and improve the atmosphere,” said Aleksandr Erokhin, who provided the assist for the opener against El Tri. “Of course, we should have picked up some results along the way as well. We’ll continue to work on that.
“I thought we added something in every match. Psychologically we were very well prepared for these games. We left no stone unturned, but we just needed to take our chances and try to avoid any slip-ups, especially in a contest which was tantamount to a final for us. Minimising errors and scoring goals is what football is about.
“We need to analyse everything, both individually and together as a team, in order to draw our conclusions and move forward. All our efforts must be directed on preparing in the best way possible for the World Cup.”
Aleksandr Samedov, who scored Russia’s goal against Mexico, agreed with his team-mate: “Of course, these games weren’t in vain. This is a major tournament, held on home soil. I want to say a massive ‘thank-you’ to the fans for their amazing support and creating such a great atmosphere.
“One positive is the way we built play, especially in the third match. It clearly didn’t work out completely for us, but there were some positive moments that will help the team move in the right direction. We created five or six good chances apart from the goal; it’s just a shame we didn’t manage to take at least one of them.”
The squad returned to Moscow immediately after the game and are now on a short holiday ahead of arguably the most important season in Russian football history.
“I’m not thinking about the World Cup just yet,” Samedov admitted to FIFA.com in conclusion, “because we’ve only just finished this big tournament. We’re disappointed but we’ll move on. There’s an important year ahead for the Russian national team. We need to draw the right conclusions and move in the right direction.”