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Direct from Russia

Ask a Russian Journalist: Explain the National Team

The Russian team the United States faces on Wednesday evening is something of a mystery. To help understand the squad, we asked a Moscow-based reporter a few questions.
BY Noah Davis Posted
November 14, 2012
2:28 AM
KRASNODAR, Russia—Artur Petrosyan is our new favorite Russian journalist. And not just because we would still be stuck at Kuban Stadium had he not helped us get a cab back to our hotel Tuesday night.

The chief editor for football at Sportbox.ru knows his Russian football and he happily offered some brief thoughts on the team that is going through a bit of a transition. (Sound familiar?) Fabio Capello jettisoned stars like Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Pavel Pogrebnyak, choosing to bring in younger players including Fyodor Smolov and Real Madrid's Denis Cheryshev. The plan, according to Petrosyan:

Is Capello trying to create a new era?
Yeah, I guess he plans to stay as long as possible here. Probably until the World Cup in 2018, so he's looking to the future and trying different options that he can use for a long time.

What is the general population’s perception of the national team? Are they popular?
Probably not anymore. It used to be, but the players who were on the national team are not too popular because of their behavior. Most of them are arrogant, so more and more fans concentrate on their clubs and not on the national team. You can see by attendance. It's getting smaller and smaller.

Could the World Cup in 2018 change that?
It's still a long time before that, so I can't see any change for the better. I'm not sure it will gain much more popularity. They have been getting pretty strong results, so maybe that will change something, but I can't see it altering how the people feel about the players.

What is the perception of American soccer in Russia?
Only those who play in the English Premier League are well-known here, not those who play in the U.S. Obviously, Clint Dempsey is the most well-known player. I also know Geoff Cameron because I mostly watch English football. Also, Bradley is good. Alexi Lalas. [This sparked cheers of recognition from other Russian journalists in the room. There were discussions about "Red Man" Lalas, Tab Ramos, and Tony Meola. The conversation really went off the rails for a bit at this point.]

Predict a scoreline tomorrow.
I don't care, really. (Laughs) Something like 2-1 or 3-1, Russia.

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