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World Cup 2018 Sport Football Russia

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5 shots from Day 25: Belgian coaching vindicated, Russian coach idolised

Russia fans watch Russia vs Croatia on 7 July 2018 in Sochi, Russia Reuters/Evgeny Reutov

Pondering Belgian strategy, feeling Russian joy, saying goodbye to Spain's coach and worrying about Ozil on day 25 of the 2018 World Cup.

  • Old times

The review was walking along the river Volga in Samara on day 25. This is what happens when there is no football to watch. A review gets to thinking about life and loss. Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams was playing over the speakers in a café in the park adjacent to the river’s edge. What were we doing when that came out? Dreaming probably. Was it really 41 years ago? Was it really the summer of 1977? Yep. And from introspection … to a penny for the thoughts of the former Belgium coach Marc Wilmots. He led the team to the quarter-final at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European championship. During the Euros, Wilmots’ testy relationship with the Belgian football press came to a head. They berated him for relying on counterattacks. This, according to the scribes, wasn’t the tactic of big teams like Spain and Germany (it was two years ago) Such teams, the hacks posited, dominated possession and controlled the game. Belgium’s "golden generation" should be lording it over teams, not doing sneaky cut and runs. Fast forward two years and a new coach in the shape of Roberto Martinez. Belgium’s third goal against Japan? A counterattack of bristling brilliance led by Kevin de Bruyne and Nacer Chadli with the conclusion. The second goal against Brazil in the quarter-final? A rampaging Romelu Lukaku inspired counterattack finished by De Bruyne. You watch, the Spaniards will be trying it next.

  • National heroes

Fresh from defeat at the hands of Croatia, the Russia squad have been given the official seal of approval. Phew! Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hailed the team's performances as magnificent. He added that the tournament would change the face of football in the host nation. Well, things could only get better. The Russians went in as no-hopers ranked 70th in the Fifa listings. But Russia coach Stanislas Cherchesov galvanised the squad ... and the country, really. And the joy after the penalty shootout win over Spain was tangible. A welcome surprise.

  • Stan is the man

Watch out Mr Medvedev and co§ You could have a rival if Russia coach Stanislas Cherchesov decides he is looking for a different kind of field. Cherchesov took his squad to the Moscow fan zone, where they were resoundingly cheered by the thousands who had turned up to praise their efforts. Before the start of the tournament, when the review spoke to any local about the Russian team, there was an apology and a roll of the eyes which suggested: at least we have vodka. But the boys done well. And it’s obvious. Stan is a people’s man. On a specially constructed stage in the zone, Obamasov, told the adoring hordes: "You were not the 12th player …… you were the 12th … 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th players," Chants, love and pride flowed from the fans. "We felt your support from the first second," he added to even more whoops of joy. And then Russia midfielder Denis Cheryshev dedicated his four goals to the whole country. Nice touch from the striker. Little wonder that President Vladimir Putin has invited Cherchesov and his charges to the Kremlin. We can imagine the post-reception chat in a plushly furnished soundproofed room. “Now, Stanni, don’t mind these two tall, well-built men … but tell us ... no, they're not getting closer .. but tell us your exact ideas for the future … you do plan to stay as coach don’t you?”

  • Zero-sums game

Incentives clearly exist for Stanislas Cherchesov to remain as national team coach but it is "Adios, Fernando." The review confidently predicted that it would be a case of Hierro today, gone tomorrow and the Spain coach has departed. The former Real Madrid player was assistant to Julen Lopetgui but was hastily installed as manager just days before the start of the World Cup after Lopetgui was sacked by the Spanish FA for accepting the job as Real Madrid coach. Hierro got Spain through the group stages but his men served up the spectacle of elimination via 1,000 passes. They only scored one goal with all that possession and went down to the Russians in a penalty shootout. "After travelling many kilometres together, the Spanish football federation and Fernando Hierro have put an end to their relationship," the federation said in a statement. Hierro, 50, declined to return to his previous job as the federation's technical director. The federation said he would undertake new professional challenges. Appears that someone in the Spanish FA is entering into the spirit of the fiasco and passing the buck.

  • Achtung, my baby

A riff along racy racial themes, this one. The German FA has decided to stick with Joachim Low, the coach who led them to their worst World Cup showing for 80 years. However, Mesut Ozil’s dad has urged his son to quit Germany's national squad after he feels his boy was made the scapegoat for Die Mannschaft's shock first-round departure. But, Daddy Ozil, your son done long time gone from the Germany team and if you ask fans in a certain part of north London, the Arsenal team too. He is not among us. He has absented himself from the dirty coil of football in this realm and weaves midfield patterns in a celestial selection in a shimmering otherworld. Mustafa Ozil revealed his feelings about his 29-year-old lad in an interview with the German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag. It followed comments from the Germany team boss Oliver Bierhoff who suggested Ozil should have been dropped after his failure to publicly clear up why he went to meet the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the prelude to the tournament. "This statement is insolent. In my opinion,” said Vater Ozil. “It is aimed at saving one's own skin." To be fair to Bierhoff, he did concede it was wrong to say what he said.
"Mesut no longer wants to explain himself, he no longer wants to have to defend himself all the time," Ozil père added. "He has been playing for nine years in the German team ... including becoming world champions with the A-team.
"He has contributed a lot for this country. It has always been: if we win, we win together. But when we lose, we lose because of Ozil? He is now getting whistled at and made a scapegoat. I can understand if he feels insulted." If that’s what having Turkish ancestry does for you in Germany, the review suggests the maligned maestro seek out another country to play for should he e’er return from his constellation to planet earth. Perhaps the Republic of Ireland? Top of the midfield for you, Mr O’Zil?