Russia have been branded the worst team at Euro 2020 by former wing wizard Andrei Kanchelskis following their disastrous early exit as recriminations continued into the performance by Stanislav Cherchesov’s men.
Even the generous Euro 2020 format which allowed 16 of the 24 teams to qualify from the group stage wasn’t enough for Russia as they finished bottom of their group on goal difference after picking up just one win in their three matches.
An opening game hammering at the hands of Belgium in St. Petersburg was followed by a narrow win against Finland at the same venue before Russia were routed 4-1 by Denmark in their final game in Copenhagen – a result which saw the Danes qualify at the expense of their visitors.
The nightmare showing was a far cry from the jubilation of three years ago at the World Cup, when Cherchesov’s men did their nation proud by going all the way to the quarter-final on home soil.
After that achievement, Cherchesov and his team – including the likes of current captain Artem Dzyuba – were feted by the Kremlin and bestowed with national honors of varying types.
For former Manchester United and Russia star Kanchelskis, that now seems preposterous in light of the debacle at Euro 2020.
“Only honored masters of sport play in the national team. The worst team at the European Championship, but the coach bears a national order ‘WORST team at the tournament’: Russia roasted by former Man Utd star Kanchelskis for woeful showing at Euro 2020,” Kanchelskis told Sport24.
“Let the leaders decide how to get out of this situation. In the ecstasy [the World Cup] they handed out orders and titles to everyone, but now it’s a shame.
“To strip them [of their honors] would be ugly of course. Unless the players themselves and the coach want to [give them up]. But Cherchesov would never give up the Order of Alexander Nevsky.”
Some might dispute Kanchelskis’ claims that Russia were the absolute worst outfit to turn up at Euro 2020, especially considering the likes of Turkey, who arrived tipped as dark horses but slunk off in disgrace after losing all three of their games and scoring just one goal.
Nonetheless, plenty of soul-searching has trailed in the wake of Russia’s latest footballing failure, which replicated the group-stage exit at Euro 2016 in France.
The finger of blame has widely been pointed at Cherchesov for failing to blood new talent or find a more tactically astute, attack-minded approach for the team.
Elsewhere, others have asserted that the decline in domestic football standards – as evidenced by Russian clubs’ paltry showing in European competition last season – is a major factor.
Cherchesov, however, looks set to remain in place until the Qatar 2022 World Cup on a contract which reportedly pockets him around €2.5 million ($3 million) a year.
For Kanchelskis, the solution lies with Russian footballers moving abroad to bigger and better leagues – just as he did during a peripatetic career in which he won honors including two English Premier League titles at Man Utd.
Of the current Russian team, only two players ply their trade in Europe’s top five leagues: Aleksandr Golovin, who is at Monaco in France, and Aleksei Miranchuk, who is at Atalanta in Italy.
“The footballers have to leave to play in Europe, that’s the whole secret,” Kanchelskis was quoted as saying.
“But it’s difficult to leave the RPL [Russian Premier League]. There must be a strong desire from the player himself, because the club, agents and relatives will dissuade him, the conditions in Russia are much more profitable.”
Although their team has crashed out, Russia will still play some part at Euro 2020 as St. Petersburg hosts one of the quarter-final matches at Krestovsky Stadium on July 2.