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Foreign coach may head Russian football team if Slutsky quits — minister

June 23, 14:14 UTC+3
Leonid Slutsky will soon make a decision whether he wants to remain the head coach of the national team
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© Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

MOSCOW, June 23. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko does not rule out the possibility of appointing a foreign coach to the national football team.

"Even a woman can become coach. A foreigner can become a coach if [Leonid] Slutsky quits. But I’d like a Russian citizen to hold this post," Mutko said.

"Slutsky will soon make a decision whether he wants to remain the head coach of the national team," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said. "The Russian Ministry of Sports still keeps this post reserved for his candidacy. But his contract [with the team] is about to expire."

Last Monday the Russian national team lost to Wales 0-3 in its third group stage match of the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup and failed to qualify to the next round of Last 16 going back home instead. Slutsky told a news conference after the match that someone else should take his place at the helm of the national squad.

Speaking about a possible substitute for Slutsky, Mutko said that "even a woman can become a coach."

"A foreign specialist can be also a coach if [Leonid] Slutsky quits," the chief of Russian sports said. "However, I would personally like to see a Russian national assuming this post."

Mutko said that Slutsky, 45, still remained the top-priority candidate to manage the Russian national team.

"I have said this before the Euro Cup and I am not taking my words back," the Russian sports minister said. "The doors of the national team are open for him. We [the Sports Ministry] are not scrapping out his candidacy since he is the candidate number one for this post."

"If he decides to keep working with the national team I will be happy to provide him with all the necessary support," Mutko said.

"We currently need a specialist, who will inspire the team with confidence and will take the squad to a higher level," Mutko said adding that the next serious challenge ahead of the Russian football team would the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup "where we have put something for testing."

Slutsky is also the head coach of the Russian CSKA Moscow football club, which he guided to the champion’s title in several seasons since taking charge of the club in October 2009. Last month he was named the country’s best coach after CSKA Moscow won the champion’s title in the Russian Football Premier League’s 2016/2016 season tournament.

He began the career of a coach in 1993 at the age of 22 - he was working with a group of 12 year-old boys in the Russian southern city of Volgograd and brought the team to the first place in local competitions in 1999. Later on, he worked as the coach of different Russian football clubs before ending up with CSKA Moscow over six years ago.

On August 7, 2015, the RFU announced that Slutsky was appointed the head coach of the national team in place of previous Italian specialist Fabio Capello. The announcement followed Russia’s 0-1 defeat to Austria in the 2016 Euro Cup qualifier in Moscow in June 2015. The defeat put Russia’s chances of qualifying for the European football championship almost to zero.

Slutsky, however, managed to guide the national team to victories in all remaining qualifying matches of the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup starting with 1-0 victory over Sweden on September 5 and earned the spot for Russia in Europe’s main football tournament.

The new coach’s inaugural match against the Swedish squad followed with a crushing 7-0 victory over Liechtenstein three days later and then he took the team to victories over Moldova (2-1) on October 9 and Montenegro (2-0) on October 12.

However, Russia emerged the winner only once in four friendly matches it played ahead of the major European football tournament, beating Lithuania by three goals to nothing. There was one draw against Serbia and two defeats to France (2:4) and the Czech Republic (1:2).

Playing in Group B at the Euro Cup, which kicked off on June 10, Russia ended its match against England with 1-1 draw, then lost its encounters with Slovakia and Wales (1-2 and 0-3 respectively). Having finished in the last place of the group, the Russian players, led by Slutsky, returned to Moscow on Tuesday.

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