Having less then a week to go before the finals, I have finally been able to set myself down to write this post. This months has been quite challenging for all of us, with long hours spent in and out of the venues, roaming between three host cities, and so on. As much as I love the atmosphere of World Cup, I’m quite happy there isn’t much left – and I’m really looking forward to more events in the future, once I get to rest a little!
By the time I’m writing this post, there are only three games left to be played in Moscow and St. Petersbourg. Team Russia has dropped out in 1/4, losing the penalty series to Croatia, and the whole country has literally drowned in the bittersweet sorrow of this honourable, yet painful loss. It’s been no secret that prior to the tournament our national team received very little credit from its fans. Barely anyone believed we’ll make it past the group round, and once we did, we were all prepared to lose it to Spain in 1/8. The day Russia won over Spain, July 1, will probably remain in our football history forever. It was as if we had just won a war: the traffic across the whole city center was stopped; everyone was walking around singing our national anthem, and Russian folk songs, and rhymes to our goalkeeper’s name (“Hey, hey, Igor-Igor Akinfey!”). It was mad. We got off the metro next to the Cremlin, and we walked along the newly-famous Nikolskaya street where most of the wilderness was going, and we crossed the Red Square, and we walked and walked and there were people all around us, in the dead of night, holding out Russian flags, screaming, singing, dancing, hugging each other. I’ve never seen my city like that; I hope I will – some day.
We were there, at the bottom of Luzhniki stadium, seeing the penalty series from the tunnel. Luckily or not, we didn’t witness the match against Croatia in Sochi, as we were out filming in Kazan. We watched the rest of the game once we landed back in Moscow. The miracle of getting through to the semi-finals seemed just a breath away – but it never happened, for the Croatian team scored the penalty that neither our striker Fyodor Smolov, nor the right-back Mario Fernandes could make up for. Neither worked the wonder-foot of our goalie Igor Akinfeev, the foot that had literally become a meme within the Russian network after Igor’s unbelievable saves against the Spanish team. Our team lost – but lost in such a battle that no one was there to blame them, and in the next few days all our social networks were hyped with #thankyouteam posts.
Does it all mean the revival of football in Russia? Only time will tell. The memory of Russia’s bronze in Euro 2008, which resulted in no further progress to follow, is still fresh in our minds. Our team has done much better than we all had expected. Still, it goes without saying that our football is far from being as strong, beautiful and entertaining as we’d wish it to be. Needless to say we’d rather re-watch Belgium vs Brazil than Russia vs Spain, wouldn’t we? Because – beauty, dynamics, strength. It’s something that our football often lacks. Will we see a different picture in the next few years, now that the team believes in itself all over again, once we all believe in it? We’ll see.
With three games to go, I sincerely wish to see England in the final match, as it’s the last of my home countries, or at least so I would call it, to go this far. And, well, since they’re playing Croatia, I’d like to see them revenge for us – I can be a little patriotic here, can’t I?
It’s all about to end – so let’s enjoy the last few days we’ve got, and let the strongest win!