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MOSCOW, August 17 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is bitterly critical of Russia’s national soccer team for its latest loss in a 2014 World Soccer Cup qualifier. He argues that some players should have never agreed to participate in the match, because they clearly placed their personal interests above national ones.
Last Wednesday, on August 14, Russia lost an away qualifier to Northern Ireland by one goal to nothing. The Fabio Capello-led team still holds second place in Group F, falling two points behind Portugal, but with one game in hand.
“I believe it was the worst performance ever,” Mutko told ITAR-TASS on Friday. “I am saying so not because of the loss. No one is secure against defeats. What I have in mind is the way it all happened. Most of the guys showed no wish to play at all. I suspect that many cared more about their contracts and personal terms. They showed no sense of responsibility for the country, for the emotions of millions of fans.”
Russia’s sports minster believes that those players who were mostly concerned about their personal interests should have told the chief coach outright they were not ready to play.
“I had seen situations like that several times in the past, when I was already in office. For instance, we lost a 2008 European Cup qualifier to Israel. The chief coach, Guus Hiddink, went speechless then, too. He had believed his team. Everybody had been telling him everything would be OK. But in reality it turned out that many just not wished to play,” Mutko said.
“Now Capello is to drive the message home, to put the players’ minds on the right track. We shall help him do that. This is Capello’s first experience of the sort. First he is told the team will play well, but on the pitch it all happens otherwise... He must have not fully understood the mentality of our guys yet,” Mutko added.
In contrast to Russia, he went on to say, Northern Ireland looked prepared to “die hard.”
“Many of our guys left me disappointed. That’s not the way it should be. If you do not wish to play for the national team, then just don’t. After all, there will be a whole nation watching you. A situation where the player gets good money in the club and cares little about everything else is very wrong. Those who have such hefty contracts are expected to work hard not just for the club, but for the national team, as well. May those who do not want to play say so outright,” Mutko said.
He promised to raise this issue once again in the future and to discuss the matter with the clubs’ chiefs.
“This is not the right way to play football. At a certain moment, after Euro 2012, it seemed it was all settled. It has turned otherwise. The country has suffered a tremendous damage and everybody must realize that,” Mutko said.