Russians rate their progress

Ivan Galanin stands in the tunnel after he and his Russia team-mates have won their final FIFA U-17 World Cup group game to confirm their status as pool champions alongside his captain Georgy Makhatadze. It is on one hand a time for considered reflection, to look back at how the group stages have gone, and on the other to look forward to the knockout round. As Galanin hears’s opening question, his grin widens, as he ponders a response.

How would he rate his captain’s performance in the group stages?

“He’s our leader and, of course, he was really needed by the team during the group stages,” Galanin says before adding with a final flourish: “I would rate him five out of five. To improve? I don’t know. Maybe he has to earn his ‘plus’ so that he can be rated 5+ in the knockout stages!”

Makhatadze’s performance in the final group game is most certainly fresh in Galanin’s memory. The captain opened the scoring against South Africa from the penalty spot before dictating the tempo of the first half. Despite the Amajimbos pressing hard for an equaliser, Makhatadze’s quick thinking led to an easing of the tension in the closing moments with a wonder strike from a free-kick just inside the South African half.

The captain listens intently to Galanin’s every word, laughing as his team-mate responds. He is posed the same question, about the Russian No6.

“I think Ivan performed well during the group stage and I would give him four out of five,” his captain said with a smile. “He has an all-round ability and has been very good, nothing much to improve on.”

The rating is fair for the baby-faced Galanin, who was the driving force behind most of Russia’s attacks in their three group games in Concepcion. The Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder has been the metronomic schemer in Mikhail Galaktionov’s side, creating chances for frontman Fedor Chalov while joining in attacks at will.

Concepcion receives high marks Their performances in the group, wins against Korea DPR and South Africa sandwiching a draw against Costa Rica, mean they remain in Concepcion to face Ecuador in an intriguing Round of 16 clash. Both players seemed happy to be playing once more at the Estadio Municipal Ester Roa, which received a good grade from both players.

“Chile is very nice generally and we have good conditions here living in Concepcion,” Makhatadze said. “We are mostly impressed by the condition of the pitch we’re playing on. Also, the support from the stands is unbelievable because there are a lot of supporters here and their emotions are different from anything we’ve had before.”

Makhatadze’s stunning goal, something he has “tried many times” but has “never succeeded” in pulling off, confirmed the Round of 16 matchup against their South American opponents. The pair admit neither of them have yet seen any coverage of La Tri play in this tournament. Before long, no doubt, they will be watching videos of Pervis Estupinan, Yeison Guerrero and their team-mates, and giving them their own rating ahead of the knockout clash on Thursday.