Russian wrap – Zenit claim top honours for the fifth time

June 27, 2015

“With the vital Russia v Austria Euro 2016 qualifier lost in disappointing circumstances, the Russian season eased to a finish with pretty much everyone and everything where we expected them. The Russian Football Union (RFS) hasn’t the money to pay off their expensive Italian (a crowdfunding gimmick was launched to do just that) and President of the RFS Nikolai Tolstykh was slaughtered by the Sports Minister’s allies.” backpagefootball


Bulgaria and the secret service

June 2, 2015

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“During the years of the Cold War, the Eastern European secret services were involved in all aspects of everyday life. Football, the greatest social phenomenon of the 20th century, was not an exception. Behind the Iron Curtain, the beautiful game was under the command of a system of departmental clubs. In every Eastern European country, the main derby was between clubs of the army and the interior ministry – with many clubs taking their name from the associated departments, with the club’s associated to the police being named Dinamo (e.g. Kiev, Tbilisi, Bucharest, and Zagreb). The degree of intervention from the secret service depended upon the specificities of the regime.” Slavic Football Union


Sevilla wins second straight Europa League title; clinches UCL berth

May 29, 2015

“Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Sevilla traded goals in a highly entertaining Europa League final on Wednesday, scoring four goals between them in the first half and five total. Sevilla eventually came out on top in the competition for the second successive year, 3-2, at Poland’s National Stadium in Warsaw. For the first time, this Europa League winner goes straight to the subsequent Champions League, giving the Warsaw final added meaning. Both teams’s intensity showed as much, as both fought for a berth in the continent’s premier club competition for which they failed to qualify via league play.” SI

Carlos Bacca double breaks Dnipro hearts for Sevilla to make history
“In the end, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk’s sense of their own destiny was not enough. Sevilla, playing their familiar attractive football, became the first side to win the Europa League for the fourth time – astonishingly only nine years after they won it for the first time. While José Antonio Reyes offered a reminder of his energy and inventiveness for an hour, this was really the victory of two men who confirmed their great promise. Unai Emery, the 43-year-old coach, defended the title he won by beating Benfica in the final last year, but in a far more fluent, aesthetically pleasing way, while the 28-year-old Colombia forward, Carlos Bacca, demonstrated his predatory instincts with two goals.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


How Danny won over Zenit hearts – and the void he may leave behind

May 27, 2015

“When Danny joined Zenit St Petersburg from Dynamo Moscow for €30m in 2008, he was greeted with widespread scepticism. This was, after all, a Zenit team that, inspired by Andrey Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, had just won the Uefa Cup. Did they really need to spend that much on a player from one of their bitterest rivals? Seven years on, Danny leaves Zenit as a club legend: a draw at FC Ufa nine days ago enough to secure him his third league title with the club.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Construction Time Again

May 24, 2015

“As half-time fare it seemed a little unusual. Boris Yuzefpolsky returned to his seat in the press box of the Central Stadium in Russia’s far-eastern city of Yekaterinburg and eyed the lightly frosted savoury lump handed to him by a stadium official. The words FC URAL were carefully baked into its top. A freezing 45 minutes later Yuzefpolsky tapped out the headline for his match report. ‘Gingerbread cookies don’t help as Ural go down 3-1 in their final match at the Central Stadium.’ After this, attention turns to the 2018 World Cup and a major remodelling programme for the arena. There are more numbers in Yuzefpolsky’s report. In three and a half years at the stadium FC Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast have taken in 54 Russian Premier League matches, attended by 467,000 fans who have cheered 14 victories and 128 goals.” In Bed With Maradona


Zenit Secures the Title – A Look on their Incredible Season

May 22, 2015

“Last Sunday Zenit St. Petersburg won their fourth Russian Premier League title and their fifth league title in total, 31 years after they won the first in the Soviet Supreme League in 1984. The championship was secured after a 1-1 draw with FC Ufa, making them unreachable for their closest rivals – CSKA Moscow and FC Krasnodar. Zenit’s road to success had already started last season, when André Villas-Boas signed a two year contract on the 18th of March, following a disastrous ending to Luciano Spalletti’s five year reign in St. Petersburg.” Russian Football


Dnipro’s Europa League run reaps seeds sown by Yevhen Kucherevskyi

May 16, 2015

“It is 11 years since I visited Dnipropetrovsk. It may have changed, but back then it was a bracingly industrial city, the river thick with green sludge. Amid the factories and the endless brick there was one oasis: Dnipro’s impressive training base, a block of immaculate, manicured pitches surrounded by trees. ‘Dnipro always had a good school,’ said their then coach, Yevhen Kucherevskyi. He is dead now, killed in a car crash in August 2006, but the academy remains a cornerstone of the club: 12 of the first-team squad are home-grown. On Thursday Dnipro face Napoli in Kiev in the second-leg of their Europa League semi-final.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


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