Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru
Vladimir Putin kicking it up

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited the Russian national team players and their head coach to discuss the results of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

Russia was eliminated from the tournament by Croatia in the quarterfinals match on Saturday night in Sochi, having come short, 3-4, the penalty shootout that followed a 2-2 draw in the 30-minute overtime period.

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“Putin phoned [Russia’s head coach Stanislav] Cherchesov prior to the game on Saturday and wished him success,” Peskov said. “After the game, Putin phoned him again and noted the team’s worthy performance at the World Cup, as well as Russia’s beautiful and determined game in the historic match against Croatia.”

Truth be told, Russia was criticized severely for its essentially “bunker” style of play, against Spain and against Croatia. Coach Cherchesov filled his half of the field with Russian players who frustrated the other teams’ attacks, especially in the 16 yard penalty area. It got the job done against Spain, which lost the penalty kick match. But, of course, he who lives by the penalty kick match dies by the penalty kick match.

“The president invited the head coach and team members to an event to sum up the results of the championship and discuss Russia’s World Cup heritage,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

OK, who thinks this means good news?

Now, here’s some background to explain why Putin might be especially outraged at losing to Croatia of all countries. The two national teams have met on three occasions, resulting in two draws and one win for Croatia. Last night was the second win for the Croats.

Nikita Khrushchev (holding ceremonial hammer) and Marshal Josip Broz Tito (in jaunty white coat), August 1963.

Putin’s summons has to do with one Josip Broz Tito, born in Kumrovec, Croatia in 1892, a partisan leader of the only resistance army that pushed the Nazis out of its country without the military intervention of the allies. Marshal Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980, was one of very few Eastern European Communist leaders to stand up to the Russians successfully – so that a Croatian victory over the red team, so many years later, stings just as if it had happened in 1950.

Keep all this in mind when you go a meetin’ the presidente de por vida…

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