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FIFA World Cup: Russia hit streets after ‘ordinary miracle’

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev media’s darling after hosts beat Spain to enter quarterfinals of FIFA World Cup.

football Updated: Jul 02, 2018 17:37 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
FIFA World Cup,Spain vs Russia,Russia vs Spain
Russia fans celebrate react after the home team won the penalty shoot-out during the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match against Spain in Moscow on Sunday.(AFP)

Shortly after hosts Russia dramatically knocked Spain out of the FIFA World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium here on Sunday, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov released a congratulatory statement for Stanislav Cherchesov’s team.

“Before the match, around noon, the president called the coach and wished him well,” he said.

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The president had not come to the stadium but Peskov revealed that Vladimir Putin had followed the match on TV.

“Putin also noted that regardless of the outcome of the match, no one in our country was going to judge them,” he added.

The Kremlin had not revealed the reason behind Putin deciding against being at the ground. Did he have prior commitments? Or was it the fear of losing, as Russia were expected to against Spain?

Had it been the latter, the Kremlin’s expectations may not have been out of line with those of Russia’s football fans. The national team had come far and, irrespective of the result against Spain, it would have been a reason to celebrate on Sunday.

Nevertheless, once Akinfeev denied Iago Aspas from the penalty spot in the tie-breaker to seal a quarter-finals berth, euphoria poured over from the Luzhniki Stadium to streets of Russia.

In the post-Soviet era, no Russia team had reached the knock-out stages, let alone the quarter-finals.

Like after their win over Egypt, all major roads leading to and out of the Moscow city centre were clogged with cars, many of them honking to a beat accompanying the most famous chant of this World Cup – ‘Russ-e-yah!’

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By 9pm, security had been significantly beefed up at the city centre. Police lined up as fans – many under the influence – took over the streets. There were a few Soviet flags visible as well as the party continued well into the morning hours of Monday.

Russia’s biggest newspapers, whose coverage of the national team’s campaign had been subdued until their qualification to the Round of 16, hailed the win.

‘Ordinary miracle’, the government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote in its front page, accompanied by a picture of Russian players carrying the national flag. The headline is based on a 1978 romantic movie by the same title. “Russia - among the eight best teams of the world,” its strapline read.

Isvestia went with a simple headline of ‘Keep it up!’ with a picture of Igor Akinfeev’s penalty save off Koke adorning its front page.

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Akinfeev was in the cover page of Komsomolskaya Pravda as well. Its headline read, “Fantastic victory!”

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 17:37 IST