Russia gamble on Capello
Published: 24.07.12 / Written by: David Gold
Fabio Capello’s appointment as Russia coach is a significant throw of the dice for the hosts of the 2018 World Cup.
Capello replaces Dick Advocaat, who left his role to return to PSV Eindhoven. The Italian takes over after a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign in which Russia exited a group they were expected to win as the apparently strongest team on paper.
Following that, Advocaat was not the only one to leave. Sergei Fursenko, the head of the Russian FA also departed, falling on his sword after the failure. He had declared Russia should be challenging to win the World Cup in 2018, and set them the target of glory at Euro 2012 on the way there. Now the man he replaced when he took over at the Russian FA, Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister, has taken over the recruitment process.
The politicisation of the process of appointing Capello should perhaps raise alarm bells for the Italian. He is walking into uncertain territory of football in Russia, and he will have a hard task ahead of him. There is a dearth of talent coming through. The generation of Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Roman Shirokov is in its twighlight years. Igor Akinfeev and Igor Denisov are among those still in their prime, but of the next generation there are few.
Alan Dzagoev is the stand out prospect, and he will be a real star for 2018, but who else does he have? Aleksandr Kokorin was the only other player under the age of 25 in the Russia squad for the Euros, and with six years until the World Cup that leaves Capello with much to do, presuming that is that Russia want him to guide them that far. It is not usual in international football, nor club either, for a coach to last that long, but it is hard to think such a big appointment will have been made without that hugely significant Russian milestone in mind.
So it all adds up to quite a challenge for a man who struggled with England in his last post. He endured a nightmare World Cup with them, and that will at least give him the experience he previously lacked in managing a team at an international tournament. Russian football and their players are different so it is not fair to draw direct comparisons, but it is tricky to see how a man who struggled to master English can get to grips with Russian – a lot further from Capello’s native Italian.
It should be interesting to see how he does in the new post. Capello’s tactical nous and management skill should go some way to helping Russia to improve for the next World Cup, but it is the long term that should concern both him and Russian football chiefs most. It will be a tough few years as they look to build a team capable of taking on the best in the world.