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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Russia’s 2-1 Win vs. England was a Big Win, But also a Mixed Blessing

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LONDON — In the biggest game of his soccer career, Aleksandr Golovin of Russia played a part in a thrilling 3-3 draw with England on Monday. The 16-year-old midfielder entered as a late substitute in the opening 30 minutes but the fans enjoyed his famous goal in the 80th minute, a shot that beat England’s Dan Burn and went in off the far post of his own goal. The game was a replay of the last European Championship final, and while England came out on top then, Russian fans had hoped a repeat performance would prove just as spectacular on home soil. Instead England dominated but failed to score at any of their three previous trips to Moscow over the past decade. After the match, Golovin was rightly feted as a national hero, with widespread praise of his advanced footballing abilities and maturity both on and off the field. It was also obvious just how important this win was for the national side, now back among the top tier of global soccer after years in the doldrums. Still, for Golovin and the rest of the Russian players there is a clear danger that this victory has brought the country a mixed blessing. Just like Italy fans who jeered their beloved team during the 2006 World Cup semifinal against France, Russians booed them on Monday after their under-fire coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, was appointed in March and promptly dropped Alexander Kokorin. A few hours after scoring the equalizer in the semifinal on Sunday, Kokorin was banned for five games for receiving two yellow cards in the last group game against Spain. And, although Russia went on to the final, an estimated 80,000 of the Russian fans who came to witness the game left empty-handed in a final that marked their first appearance in the last eight of a major international competition.

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