MOSCOW – The day after their hard-fought defeat at the hands of Croatia in the quarterfinals of the World Cup the team visited the Fifa Fan Fest in Moscow to personally thank the fans for their unbelievable support throughout the tournament.
In turn, thousands of ecstatic fans showed up on Vorobyovy Gory on Sunday to thank their heroes for an amazing World Cup.
The quarterfinal result still stings for Stanislav Cherchesov's side, but it was overshadowed by a sense of pride for the team, who managed to defy all the pre-tournament predictions, not only qualifying from the group but even beating the 2010 world champions Spain in the Round of 16.
“As soon as I found out there was going to be a reception with the Sbornaya, I dropped everything and drove with my husband to Moscow,” said Anastasiya, a fan from Tver who travelled for over three hours to reach the capital.
“I really wanted to see in the flesh the men who gave us such a fairytale celebration. Huge ‘thanks’ to the guys for their performances, the emotions and the unforgettable memories. They’ve given us belief that we are a genuine footballing country.”
The crowd kept on chanting ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ the entire time the squad and coaching staff were on stage at the Fan Fest.
When captain Igor Akinfeev and talisman Artem Dzyuba were handed the microphone to address the fans, all of Vorobyovy Gory was drowned out in applause.
Even Fedor Smolov, who missed his effort from the penalty spot yesterday, was greeted as a hero, his nickname ‘Fedya’ roared into the afternoon sky.
The national team has never been greeted so warmly, not even after their stunning performance at Uefa Euro 2008, when they reached the semifinal. The reception culminated in a joint rendition by squad and fans of the national anthem of the Russian Federation.
“It’d be fantastic if the Sbornaya organised a tour of Russian cities and met the fans all over the country,” said Anton Voronin from Krasnodar, who was at the historic match against Spain at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Round of 16.
“How could you not be proud of these lads. My mum and sister watched every one of their World Cup games at my place, passionately supporting them, and they have never watched football in their lives!”
African News Agency (ANA)