Tag Archives: Russia

Russia’s 2010 World Cup kits

Assuming, of course, Russia defeats Slovenia on 14 and 18 November 2009. That said, these new kits will still be used and, if they make it to South Africa, they will be the primary kits. So, without further ado…

russia 2009-10b

New Russian World Cup kits

Where to begin. Let’s start with the absolutely phenomenal socks. Red socks with white horizontal stripes. Amazing. Wonderful. Fantastic. I love everything about them. The shorts are simple, which is good because the shirt is very busy, mostly with adidas’s 3 stripes logo thingy all over the place. On the shoulders, I can live with. On the forearms, not so much. I do, however, like the little details on the front.

Here’s a closer look:

russia 2009-10c

Close-up of details on Russia's new shirt

The Russian Football Federation’s crest is very imperialistic. I like it, though I think everyone in Eastern Europe just woke up in a cold sweat. But I also like subtle dragon-ish design across the chest. Not to mention the reasonably unique white bars across the top and bottom. I like that they’re Russian-ized, for lack of a better term, rather than either (a) three little stripes [like you wouldn’t put it past adidas] or (b) a solid stripe. Of course, Churchill is likely screaming from beyond the grave about a new Iron Curtain.

Overall, this is a great kit. I’m really hoping this is going to bring back some individuality to soccer kits rather than the mass-produced sameness that’s permeated the game for the last 5 years or so (I blame both Nike and adidas; at least Umbro keeps making the England kit somewhat unique).

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Short corners are the bane of my existence

I hate short corners. I hate how teams constantly use them because they think they’ll be a “surprise.” I hate it when the opposing team isn’t taken by surprise and steals the ball and gets a chance of their own. By my count today, Spain used 5 short corners, 4 of which failed miserably (the one that worked, though, was brilliant). Now, some people – I’m looking at you, Luis Aragones – might think that a 20% success rate is good. I don’t. The best cornerman I saw this tournament was Holland’s Rafael van der Vaart (I may have missed someone; feel free to voice your opinion). He was constantly on target. What Spain needed was a couple of his corners to provide variety. I’m at a loss to explain how Spain’s passing was so good but their corners so bad.

But no matter. Spain won the game 1-0 on Fernando Torres’ goal at 33 minutes. That goal, my friends, was a beautiful piece of soccer. The passing was crisp and the touches were light. Torres finished the play off through a combination of brute force (getting past the defender) and speed (beating the defender and the keeper to the ball). It came on the heels of about 20 minutes of Spanish domination. I wrote down in my notes, at 22 minutes, that Spain needed to capitalize on their chances because they’d had a grand total of two (2) to that point. Germany was playing great, with good passes and even better movement into space. Germany’s counter-attacking strategery worked for about 22 minutes. Then Spain found a way.

And that’s the true beauty of this tournament: Spain found a way. After 44 years of frustration and ridicule, Spain found a way. True, I dislike Aragones but I love to watch Fabregas and Xavi play. Iniesta is continuing to improve (even though he looks like Jason Patric at this point) and Iker Casillas sealed his place in history. He and Buffon are, indisputably, the top 2 keepers in the world right now in some order; they’re probably closer to 1 and 1a at this point. But the story is Spain. Sergio Ramos talked about unity all week and it showed today. Spain played as one, with each player knowing his role, accepting it, and flourishing. So after decades of frustration, despite having one of the top 3 domestic leagues in the world, Spain is European Champions.

And I get the feeling they’re not yet. The team is young and hungry. They’ve tasted victory and they want more. Whoever’s in their group at World Cup 2010 had better bring its A-game. Because we know Spain will. And we now know they can back up their aspirations on the pitch.

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Holland: an autopsy

I’ll admit that I cheerfully glossed over Holland’s weaknesses in an earlier post. I wrote down in my notes the times that France, in particular, dominated play. But France was handicapped by an incompetant manager who couldn’t or wouldn’t change when he needed to (the most obvious change was to switch to an attacking 4-3-3 and bring on Benzema, but I digress). Against Russia, Holland faced a disciplined team and far, far superior manager in Guus Hiddink. And Hiddink knew exactly what would break Holland’s beautiful counter-attack: constant attacking pressure.

This is not to say that Holland didn’t dominate large chunks of the game; it did. The crisp passing and fluid movement was there throughout the game. Except for the first 20 minutes of the second half and the entirety of the second half of extra time. It was tragic. Marco van Basten’s men couldn’t recover against a team that pressed them and used their possession to the fullest advantage. So, Holland died at roughly 4pm CST. Cause of death: weakness in the back four.

Marco van Basten’s reputation will also take a hit, I think. I don’t want to be too hard on him because he did a great job and I wish him the best at Ajax next season. But the fact of the matter is that Rafael van der Vaart (husband of Sylvie) was the best player on the pitch (other than Andrei Arshavin) and nailing his set pieces and crosses the entire day. To go away from him in the second half, even for the re-hot Wesley Sneijder, was inexcusable. That had to be van Basten’s call and, if it was a player freelancing, he should’ve been severely reprimanded by van Basten. I still think van Basten did it right and used his players to the best of their abilities for the most part.

The Dutch, as they are wont to do, seduced me. I failed to heed good advice and reject their seduction. I loved their attacking style and even convinced myself that they would do enough to compensate for their at times poor defending. I was completely wrong. I read and laughed as Gabriele Marcotti went off on people who compared Dutch soccer circa 2008 with the iconic teams of Total Football. I didn’t laugh because he was wrong (it wasn’t true Total Football) but because someone was silly enough to throw a wet blanket on the inevitable Dutch parade. I guess the laugh’s on me, now.

I’m going to miss the Dutch. I got three matches worth of unmitigated joy out of them. I also got nearly 3 hours of heartbreak. I’m going to miss their awesome orange jerseys. I’m going to miss their passing, which was a thing of beauty. Like F365, I thought this was the year they broke through. Instead I’m left with the Germans, the Spanish (perennial underachievers themselves), the superbly-managed Russians, and the chronically crocked Turks. Nonethess, the semi-finals and finals should be great mainly because the Italians aren’t involved. Go Spain!

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