Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A collection of Russian goings-on

It's been a bit quiet on The Cynical Challenge for a few weeks, but there has been plenty going on, particularly in the world of Russian football. I can't possibly tie all the threads together into a single seamless article, so instead let me direct you to a few choice items which should bring you bang up to date.

The Russian national team suffered a shock defeat in their first home Euro 2012 calendar, losing 1-0 to Slovakia at Cherkizovo. The team's struggles to break down the Slovak defence were all the more poignant given a debate which is troubling Russian football fans over whether to grant Brazilian-born Spartak striker Welliton a call-up to the national side. If poor results continue Dick Advocaat may be giving him the call soon.

The Russian league has been rocked by a match-fixing scandal which continues to run and run. A government task-force is looking into cases involving matches between Amkar and Rostov, and Volga and SKA-Energiya, in which evidence provided by bookmakers suggests foul play. Depressingly, most regular watchers of Russian football aren't even surprised.

Russia has also finally unveiled plans to switch to an autumn-spring season calendar from 2012. It's largely a gesture aimed at the country's biggest clubs, helping them to improve their record in European competition. But it does come at the expense of the vast majority of smaller teams who now have to come up with a way of hosting matches in Russia's frosty mid-winter.

And, with that story in mind, in a glorious piece of timing Rubin Kazan lost their opening Champions League group match away to FC Copenhagen this week. Read my profile of the team and have a laugh at my wildly optimistic prediction.

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Always glad to hear your thoughts. Be nice now! James