There had been concerns that trouble could erupt after Russia got knocked out, much like the riots that hit Moscow after the national side was beaten 1-0 by Japan at the 2002 World Cup. But, instead, fans continued to party, albeit in more subdued form. Chants of “Ros-si-ya!” echoed late into the night as Russians celebrated their side’s memorable World Cup campaign.
A cynic would say, of course, that Russia didn’t actually achieve that much: They beat Saudi Arabia and Egypt, then lost 3-0 to Uruguay, before draws against Spain — fielding arguably its weakest side for years — and Croatia. Despite the euphoria at making it to the last eight, penalty shoot-outs aside, Russia still hasn’t defeated a European side at the World Cup since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But who cares, right now, about the statistics? It was the manner of Russia’s performances, their obvious desire and passion, not to mention some truly topclass goals, that impressed the nation and made household names out of players that most people wouldn’t have previously recognized had they bumped into them down at the local shop.
“Our whole lives we’ve wanted … people to be proud of us. We wanted to prove that football is alive,” said a tearful Artyom Dzyuba, Russia’s battering-ram of a center-forward, after the loss to Croatia. Symbolically, just hours after Dzyuba and co. were knocked out of the tournament, the good weather that has helped turn central Moscow into one big fan zone ended abruptly, as torrential rains hit the Russian capital.