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Russian football chief backs Capello amid calls for Italian coach’s dismissal

June 15, 2015, 20:23 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Following Russia’s loss to Austria on Sunday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko announced that the future of Capello at the helm of the national football team would be decided in the next few days
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Nikita Simonyan, the acting president of the Russian Football Union (RFU)

Nikita Simonyan, the acting president of the Russian Football Union (RFU)

© Artyom Korotayev/TASS

MOSCOW, June 15. /TASS/. Russian national football team’s Head Coach Fabio Capello fulfills his obligations, while the squad’s 0-1 defeat to Austria in the 2016 Euro Cup qualifier in Moscow on Sunday was the result of poor work of both the coaching staff and the players, Nikita Simonyan, the acting president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), told TASS on Monday.

Following Russia’s loss to Austria on Sunday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko announced that the future of Capello at the helm of the national football team would be decided in the next few days.

"If compared to his predecessors Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat [both Dutch specialists], Capello really does his work," Simonyan said in an interview with TASS. "He [Capello] is residing in Moscow and not in a hotel, looked through numerous matches and young players."

Sunday’s qualifier defeat in Moscow placed in extreme jeopardy Russia’s chances of travelling to France in 2016 for the Euro Cup. The Russian national team is now ranked 3rd in its qualifying Group G with 8 points below 2nd ranked Sweden (12 points), while the Austrian team increased its lead over the rest of the five national teams in the group to 16 points.

Commenting on the match against Austria, Simonyan said the national team lost to its opponents in all aspects of the game.

"The only thing we could do yesterday was to outrun the opponent," Simonyan said. "But how could we hope for success when we yielded to opponents in the move and they were better in control of the ball? There were bright moments in the second half, while the first one was a complete flop. It was both about the coach and the players."

Simonyan, who is also the chairman of the RFU’s Council of Coaches, said the coaching staff would gather in early September before the 2016 Euro Cup qualifying matches against Sweden and Lichtenstein.

"We will be not convening the Council of Coaches at the moment and will do it before the games against Sweden and Lichtenstein," he said. "Convening the council now would mean adding salt to the wound. What we need now is to calmly deal with the situation. In the next two days we will discuss the situation regarding Capello in the RFU."

Reaction to Russian team's defeat to Austria

National team’s defeat on Sunday raised a storm of criticism not only among the football fans and sports experts, but among Russian politicians as well.

For instance, Igor Ananskikh, the head of the State Duma’s Committee for Physical Culture and Sport, called on the Russian Football Union (RFU) to immediately ditch the contract with Head Coach Fabio Capello.

"Yesterday’s match was the last chance and everyone saw that we are not heading forward but are on the fast track backwards," Ananskikh said in an interview with TASS.

Similar opinion was voiced in an interview with TASS by Igor Lebedev, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).

Lebedev, who also plans to run for the presidential post of the Russian Football Union (RFU), called the Italian manager "tormentor of the country" urging his dismissal.

"The minister of sports should take the responsibility, make a courageous decision and spare our country from this tormentor," Lebedev said.

Before Sunday’s 0-1 qualifier defeat to Austria, the Russian national team started with 4-0 victory over Liechtenstein in September, had two 1-1 draws in October against Sweden and Moldova, lost to the Austrian side 0-1 in November, and received 3-0 technical victory in the forfeited qualifying match against Montenegro on March 27.

The Russian national squad experienced a string of setbacks since early 2000s failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and 2010 championship in South Africa to the great dismay of the Russian football fans.

Things changed when Italian phenomenon Capello took over the team as the head coach in July of 2012 and managed to help the Russian national squad to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The team, however, failed to clear the first stage of the much-anticipated global tournament putting their coach in the center of stern criticism and raising serious concerns in the country about the team’s performance in the next World Cup, which would be hosted by Russia in 2018.

Russia did not severe the contract with Capello after the Russian team’s weak performance at the World Cup in Brazil and the Italian manager also decided to stay with the Russian squad as the head coach until the year of 2018 as stipulated by the contract terms.

Former RFU President Nikolai Tolstykh, who was dismissed from his post in late May, told TASS earlier in the month that the extremely expensive contract with Capello was a burden for the country’s governing body of football.

"The RFU would have had a positive balance sheet if there had been no contract with Capello," Tolstykh said.

Russia’s daily Novaya Gazeta published in late April a copy of a contract inked by the RFU with Italian manager Capello in January of 2014.

In line with the document, which was signed until July 2018 and stipulated an annual salary of 7 million euros ($7.6 million) for the Italian coach, the RFU practically had no rights of severing the contract unilaterally without paying a penalty, while Capello was granted such opportunity.

Earlier media reports estimated the compensation for RFU’s unilateral severance of the contract with Capello at some $25 million.

Tolstykh, who headed the RFU between September of 2012 and May of 2015, announced last month that the debts of the Russian governing body of football totaled some 1.4 billion rubles (almost $27.4).

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