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Sports minister: Russian football squad deserves criticism, not elimination

Vitaly Mutko says the most important issue at the moment is to find a new head coach for the national team

MOSCOW, July 8. /TASS/. The Russian national football team deserves to be criticized after its recently poor performance at the European tournament, however, one should not completely tarnish the squad’s reputation, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Friday.

"Football is a very peculiar sport," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said. "During yesterday’s game we were almost not noticing French footballers, but the German team eventually lost to them 0-2."

In a semifinal match of the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup on Thursday night in Marseille, reigning world champions Germany lost 0-2 to France, who are the hosting nation of the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup (held between June 10 and July 10).

"We need to assume a different attitude," Mutko said. "We can criticize the team, but why should we destroy it completely. Why should we be justifying ourselves by expressing our personal negative and positive sympathies?"

Mutko said the most important issue at the moment was to find a new head coach for the national team, who would then decide on the team’s national roster for international tournaments.

"[National team’s] players left for their football clubs as the new season is about to start," Mutko said. "The new head coach will have to make decisions selecting players [for team] based on their preparedness and level of skills."

The sports minister added that the new coach should be making up the country’s team of players, who "have the honest desire of playing and representing for the national team."

Over 270,000 Russians signed a petition, launched last week, to completely disband the national team of Russian footballers and draft new players. The petition is posted for signing at the official website of the Russian Sports Ministry.

"Such petitions are the cause of emotional breakdowns not only among the players of the national football team, but among those viewed as possible candidates for the team," the Russian sports minister said.

Mutko’s statements come in the wake of an incident involving two players from the national squad, Pavel Mamaev and Alexander Kokorin, who allegedly spent 250,000 euros on champagne partying in Monaco following their weak performance at the 2016 Euro Cup. news portal reported on Tuesday that Kokorin and Mamaev were partying at Twiga club and ordered some 500 bottles of Armand de Brignac champagne costing 500 euros each. quoted an eyewitness as saying that champagne was served while the Russian national anthem was playing and the party was accompanied with a fireworks display.

The incident with Kokorin and Mamaev provoked a public outcry particularly after the national team’s poor performance at the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup in France last month.

In late June the Russian national team lost to Wales 0-3 in its third group stage match of the 2016 Euro and failed to qualify to the next round of Last 16.

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, who are reportedly enjoying enormous salaries in the team, returned to Moscow. Some players decided to linger in Europe taking a vacation.

Following Russia’s 0-3 defeat to Wales, team’s Head Coach Leonid Slutsky told a news conference right after the match that someone else should take his place at the helm of the national squad. A week later he officially announced his resignation.

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. He was named in May the country’s best coach after CSKA Moscow won the champion’s title in the Russian Football Premier League’s 2016/2016 season tournament.