THE BRITISH football team today play Slovakia in the quarter-finals of the World Student Games, despite a lacklustre 2-0 defeat to Russia in the last game of the qualifying round.
Qualification had been assured before the game on the strength of a convincing 3-0 victory against Italy and a win by default over Nigeria, who failed to turn up.
Against Russia, the British coach, Les Reed, sent out an inexperienced side, including only four of the team which played Italy. It was a gamble, because defeat opened up the likelihood of playing South Korea, the favourites and holders, in the next round. In the event the Koreans did not win their group and they now play Russia. Reed said after the game: 'We got the draw we wanted and we rested the players. This game might have been the best thing that could have happened to us.'
On Sunday the British, and their Russian opponents, did not look happy with the humidity and the uneven pitch. Nevertheless, the Russians managed to keep their composure and it was only a matter of time before they scored. In the 40th minute, Vladimir Klontsk fastened on to a ball that had ricocheted around the British defence, took it past the keeper and side-footed it in.
In the 51st minute, Russia added a second when Klontsk crossed from the right for Robert Evodokimov to knock the ball in.
The midfielder Philip Delaney, one of the successes of Britain's win against Italy, came on for a tired-looking Jonathan Magee, who had scored two of the goals against Italy, and immediately added some cohesion. But it was too late.
In today's match against Slovakia, Britain field their strongest team, including the Ipswich and England Under-21 full-back Phil Whelan, the linchpin of the British side, who has just completed a degree in accountancy at the University of East Anglia. Whelan did not play against Russia. Victory will ensure Britain play in a medal match.
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