The choice of opponents for the Russian national football team has recently raised questions. Alas, it is not always possible to agree with teams of the level of Cameroon. More often you have to meet with opponents who are inferior in class. However, the arrival of the Cuban team in Volgograd still surprised the fans. The Caribbean Lions are only 169th in the FIFA rankings and have only participated in the World Cup once in their history.
Moreover, upon their arrival in Russia, they faced serious difficulties. It turned out that the guests' boots with short studs are simply not suitable for a natural lawn, and even in conditions of high humidity. Fortunately, the RFU quickly solved the problem by purchasing suitable shoes in one of the local sports stores.
In Volgograd, the arrival of Valery Karpin's wards still caused a full house. Even at the open training session, 500 people gathered. And the meeting itself, according to the RFU, was attended by 40.7 thousand fans. Cubans have hardly ever played in such an atmosphere. And the coach of the domestic squad admitted that for the players the opportunity to enter the almost full stadium will be an additional motivation.
"It's important for the guys to play, firstly, in Russia, and secondly, in front of their fans. This gives responsibility and strength. The meeting with Cameroon is another confirmation of this. It is clear that the level of the opponent was different. If we are not disingenuous, then we will not say that Cuba is an equal national team to Cameroon," the coach stressed.
As a result, from the first minutes, he fielded a line-up as close to optimal as possible. Matvey Safonov is on the last line. The back four were formed by Oleksandr Silyanov, Oleksandr Soldatenkov, Maksim Osipenko and Serhiy Volkov. The three midfielders were Anton Miranchuk, Daler Kuzyaev and Daniil Glebov. And Fedor Chalov was supported in attack from the flanks by Ivan Oblyakov and Alexander Golovin. By the way, it was the latter who received the captain's armband.
From the very first moments, it became clear that the difference in class between the parties was very large. The Russians immediately took control of the ball and settled in the opponent's half. And in case of a turnover, they immediately turned on high pressure and regained possession, not giving the Cubans a second of respite.
Most of the attacks went through the right flank, where Volkov regularly rose high. But Silyanov on the opposite side did not act so boldly. Together with the Krasnodar defender, Oblyakov, Chalov and Kuzyaev made combinations. Dahler, among other things, started the offensive with excellent passes from deep.
But Golovin looked the brightest. It was felt that he really missed the national team and such an atmosphere. The midfielder boldly took over the game and always found interesting solutions. On the left flank, he literally tormented Fabian Gloor and made almost no mistakes. The AS Monaco player was also extremely goal-oriented. Already in the opening, he struck several punches, but they lacked accuracy.
And when it began to seem that it would not be easy for the hosts to open the gates of the guests, the score was opened. And it was possible to do this in the transitional phase. The Caribbean Lions organized a rare counterattack and allowed a turnover in the opponent's half. Karpin's wards immediately took advantage of this. And again, Golovin did everything magnificently. Having received a pass from Oblyakov in the penalty area, he was not greedy and returned the ball to him, and the midfielder had only to not miss in touch. Thus, he scored in his second consecutive match for the national team.
At the end of half an hour, the skill of this duo helped the domestic team to double the advantage. Golovin passed a pass from the left to Oblyakov in the center, and the latter threw it into the gap. The midfielder confidently sent the ball under the defensive goalkeeper.
And the third goal was the result of a mistake by the opponents' goalkeeper, who gifted the ball to Chalov near his own penalty area. To the forward's credit, he did not shoot himself, but assisted Miranchuk, who scored his third goal for the national team in 2023.
At half-time, Karpin removed Miranchuk, Kuzyaev and Golovin and threw Sergei Pinyaev, Nikita Kryvtsov and Danil Prutsev into the fight in their place. Thus, the midfield line has changed almost completely. But this did not negatively affect the game of the hosts. The young midfielders of Krasnodar and Spartak were good attackers.
We didn't have to wait long for the next goal, and it was scored by a player from whom it was not expected - Silyanov. He ran into the opponent's penalty area and, taking advantage of Chalov's discount, hit the opponent's goal. It's a pity that Fedor himself failed to distinguish himself in this match, limiting himself to two assists. Soon he was replaced by Alexander Sobolev. Oleksandr Chernikov and Andriy Mostov also appeared on the field.
The last one entered the game better than anyone else. No sooner had the Zenit winger come out than he forced Aroarena to make a mistake. Under his pressure, the goalkeeper gifted the ball to the Spartak forward, who threw the ball into an empty net. Then Mostovoy, dragging the ball along the right edge to the front line, made an excellent cross to Prutsev, who had no right to miss. After that, the coaching staff of the guests even made a goalkeeper castling, giving practice to Ismel Morgado.
It didn't stay "dry" for long. Soon Kryvtsov beautifully beat the defender in the penalty area and left no chance for the reserve player with a powerful shot. By the way, he, like Prutsev and Silyanov, scored his debut goal for the national team. But only Nikita scored in the first match. And the point in the duel, which is quite fair, was put by Mostovoy. For some reason, Morgado began to beat Sobolev, lost the ball and only watched as the midfielder calmly closed the striker's cross at the far post.
The only fly in the ointment was a missed penalty kick at the end. Moreover, Sobolev also earned it. But it was Pinyaev who took the set-piece, who was completely inconspicuous compared to his teammates. Serhiy shot into the bottom right corner, but the goalkeeper guessed the direction of the shot and saved the Caribbean Lions in a beautiful dive.
Thus, he deprived the Russian national team of the opportunity to repeat the biggest defeat in history. In 2019, as part of the Euro 2020 qualifiers, the domestic team led by Stanislav Cherchesov scored nine unanswered goals against San Marino. On the other hand, there was a kind of remake of the confrontation between the USSR and Cuba at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Then the paths of the teams crossed in the group stage, and the Soviet squad won with the same score.