Hard-working -- wasteful, young/promising -- aging/futureless, biting -- toothless are a few of the opposite definitions that the national football teams of Armenia and Russia could hear said about their performance after a tense Saturday match in Yerevan.
Just as many in Armenia had hoped and believed and some in Russia had feared, 90 minutes of football action in a Euro-2012 qualifier at Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium was far from being a walk in the park for Dick Advocaat’s Sbornaya Russian team.
Ranked 65th on the latest FIFA list, Armenia managed to hold their formidable rival (ranked 13th) to a goalless draw and perhaps were closer to scoring a goal in front of a full-capacity home crowd at the 15,000 football arena. (See: Zero is Better Than Nothing: Armenia-Russia fight to nil-nil football final)
In fact, Russia’s Dutch coach admitted he was happy enough with collecting just one point from Yerevan (as each side is awarded for the draw).
“Both teams were looking for a goal, but we had a lot more chances than them,” the Dutchman said at a press conference after the game.
“Unfortunately, we were missing the final pass and couldn’t get a good shot on goal. Still, this draw is a good result, especially as we were playing away from home.”
Advocaat’s Armenian counterpart also called the draw a good result, but said Armenia potentially could play better.
“In general, the level of performance of my team was lower than that we are used to,” said Vardan Minasyan in his remarks.
“Russia are a high-class team and considering the course of the game I am happy with the draw,” added the Armenian coach.
Meanwhile, most Russian publications on Sunday appeared with critical assessment of the performance of Advocaat’s team in Yerevan.
A Sport-Express commentator compared Russia to a brandy that “appeared genuine but did not taste particularly good” in Armenia (a country famous for its brandies). The analyst said Russia should have beaten the underdog on their class, but then added: “There are no weak opponents left in the world anymore”.
Other analysts were less chary of giving credit to Armenia.
Alexander Bubnov, a former USSR national team player and Spartak Moscow defender, noted the very young age of most Armenian players in contrast to the veteran age of many in the Russian team.
“Armenia may end up missing qualification this time around, but with this young team they may achieve much more in the future. Russia may qualify this time, but they will have nothing to do in the [Euro-2012] finals with this kind of football,” Bubnov commented on Rossiya-2 TV.
Meanwhile, in Armenia, concerns continue with regard to finding replacement for veteran goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky, who turns 37 this year and may call it a career, at least with Armenia, soon.
Football analysts acknowledge that Berezovsky’s confident goalkeeping has been critical to Armenia’s recent successes and also central to keeping a cleen sheet in the match against Russia in which Armenia conceded 13 corners.
After two other Group B qualifiers of the night in which Slovakia beat Andorra 1-0 in an away game and the Republic of Ireland beat Macedonia 2-1 at home, Armenia are in fourth place with 8 points.
Ahead of Armenia are Slovakia, Russia and Rep. Ireland that have 10 points each.
Macedonia trail Armenia by 4 points and Andorra are bottom of the group with five defeats in as many matches.
In the next round scheduled for June 4 the fixtures remain the same, with the sides switching their home/away status.