Russia 1 South Korea 1: Fabio Capello in a forgiving mood as he thanks squad for 'present' in making up for Igor Akinfeev's goalkeeping error

Russian manager forgives goalkeeper ahead of his 68th birthday

Fabio Capello had said he didn’t expect any presents ahead of his 68th birthday today, only to see goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev give Korea a 68th-minute gift.

As such, the Russia manager was more than grateful for the way his team responded, as substitute Alexander Kerzhakov equalised Lee Keun-ho’s fortuitous strike to secure a 1-1 draw.

“I thanked the team for their reaction and told them that was the greatest birthday gift I could receive."

Akinfeev’s error, however, was one of the great World Cup slips. The goalkeeper attempted to catch a relatively soft long shot, only to haplessly divert it into the net.

“People can make mistakes,” Capello said, somewhat forgivingly. “I am very happy with the work of Akinfeev because he is a great goalkeeper.”

The deeper issue for the former England manager - who notoriously relived many of the more negative elements of his opening game to 2010, a 1-1 draw with USA - was that Russia made a whole host of errors elsewhere, particularly early on.

 

It was Korea that put in the better display, and probably deserved the win. Capello wouldn’t go that far, but accepted it had been far from perfect for Russia.

“In the first part of the game we were quite narrow, we were concerned, we were worried,” Capello said. “We had problems getting the ball around.”

Until they managed to turn it around. “It means the team is great and they can do it,” the Italian insisted.

“We could have won the game. There was a wonderful reaction by our team after the goal we suffered. We developed a crescendo. We grew.”

The key question is by how much they can still grow. Can Russia really make a next step now, or does Capello’s fundamental approach remain too stifling?

Those questions are not the only issues deepening the parallels with the 2010 English side. Russia still have to meet Algeria and, should they get through that, a potential last-16 game against a rampant Germany.

For now, though, Capello is only looking to the present.

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