Russia went into their final Group D match knowing that a win by several goals would give them a fighting chance of advancing to the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013. Their resounding 4-0 victory over Venezuela kept those hopes alive, but now the reigning European champions at U-17 level must wait to see if other results will propel them into the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams.
Confidence is not lacking in the squad, as demonstrated by forward Ramil Sheidaev, who scored two goals against the South Americans and told FIFA.com, “We did what we had to do, and now we want more.”
The young attacker had a day to remember in Fujairah on Thursday. He came to the fore when his team needed him most, scoring a fine brace. “We hadn’t been giving ourselves the opportunity to score goals. In our previous matches, we’d tried hard, but achieved very little. Today we had no choice but to create more chances, and fortunately we were able to put them away,” said the Russian starlet.
Sheidaev exhibits considerable modesty when describing his double. “My goals helped us to win, which is the most important thing,” he said. “I scored twice with my left foot, which is funny because I shoot better with my right. I hit them with my left as it was the correct thing to do with the ball at the time, especially for my first one, when Alexandr Golovin put me through on goal and I had to decide quickly. For the second one, I just hit it really hard.”
The imposing front-man, who defends the colours of Zenit St Petersburg at club level, talks about his own qualities with a maturity that belies his age. “I’m a pretty consistent player, and I work hard in training. On the pitch, my strengths are my pace and my ability to play as part of a unit. But at my age, I’ve still got a lot to learn, both professionally and personally. I’m very relaxed about how things are going for me,” he said.
Confidence for the future
Sheidaev knows that he and his team-mates must wait for other results on Friday to indirectly open the door to the last 16 of UAE 2013. “We did our job, and now we can only hope that the other results will allow us to go further in the tournament, which has been our goal since we arrived here,” explained the dangerous No9. If the European side advances, either Brazil or Uruguay lies in wait in the next round. “They’re both favourites for the title, but first we have to actually qualify,” he said.
The Russian coach, Dmitry Khomukha, is of a similar mindset. “We know that the teams that have already qualified are powerful and prominent. Our side has given everything we had, and that makes me very proud. We look forward to reaching the next phase; only then will we think about it,” he said.
Khomukha is keen to highlight the performances of his charges, who overcame the loss of two matches in a row – against Japan and Tunisia – at the start of the tournament. “The boys have played well, and at this level it’s important to learn and gain experience, and that’s what we’ve done here. Whatever happens with the other results, what we’ve experienced is a victory in itself.”
The Russians are still in the hunt and have a reasonable chance of qualifying due to their healthy-looking goals scored column, but nothing is ever certain in football. “Hopefully things will turn out the way we think they will; we’re confident in our chances,” concluded the coach.