The Russian women’s football team have had their Euro 2013 qualification hopes dented after they lost 2-0 at home to group leaders Italy.
Buoyed by a resounding win over Macedonia last weekend, Russia’s women were in the mood for a result, but that was never going to be easy.
The Italians had won all their previous five group games, including a comfortable 2-0 win over Russia in Italy. And there was also the small matter of the Azzuri not conceding a single goal in the process, while scoring 23.
Russia’s group record of only one defeat in five games meant they seemed well-prepared for the challenge. However, from the get-go it was clear Russia was in for a tough 90 minutes.
Just a few seconds in, the Italians should have scored, and this early opportunity set the tone for the remainder of the half. Eight minutes in and Italy went ahead through veteran Patricia Panico, who headed home from a deflected cross.
A goal down, Russia failed to get their rhythm. When they did get forward, it was brief and ineffective. But they did manage to keep the Italians at bay, going into half-time trailing by that solitary goal.
Despite it being a weekday, over 5,000 people were on hand to give the Russian team their support. The second half started with a flurry, with both sides coming close to scoring. But if that was a sign of things to come, it flattered to deceive.
The game became weary, with the Russians running out of ideas and Italy content to sit on their lead. When it looked like Russia would finally step up their game, they were once again caught on the break and found themselves 2-0 down.
This result, of course, suited the Italians and even though the Russian side huffed and puffed until the final whistle the result remained unchanged.
Despite his team’s dominance Italy’s coach had considered Russia their main group rivals and said the difference between the two sides was confidence.
Russia’s coach was understandably disappointed, but adamant his team would still qualify for next year’s European championships.
“We must think we can do it. And for me I have in my head no questions or no negative things that we can’t do it. It’s impossible. We must be the second place and we must think that we go to Sweden,” Farid Bestiti stated.
Russia remains second after the defeat, on equal points with Poland and having played the same amount of games. When a win would have set them up well in the fight with Italy over first spot, they will now surely have to settle for a runners-up position, which is still far from guaranteed.
Now for the Russian team, it’s up to them to secure the runners-up place to qualify for next year’s European championships and that starts with Greece on June 16.