Monday, 10 June 2013

Capello's pride

Fabio Capello seems to take pride in being stubborn and unbending and it's usually served him well.
His very reputation as an authoritarian makes his players and bosses less likely to try to challenge him.
Russia's 1-0 defeat to Portugal on Friday, however, showed one area where the man Russians call Don Fabio needs to swallow his pride.
On 67 minutes, lone striker Alexander Kerzhakov was tiring and all Capello had at his disposal to replace him was Fyodor Smolov, who had started one game in 2013 and last scored a competitive goal in July. Smolov came on and did nothing, Capello lost his unbeaten record in charge of Russia.
He wouldn't have had this problem if not for his insistence on shutting out Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Early in his reign, Capello dropped three Russian heroes of the Guus Hiddink era - Pogrebnyak, Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko - and made a decisive break with the past. He's been proved partly right, since Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko spent last season in lucrative semi-retirement.
Pogrebnyak, however, has been in the English Premier League for 18 months without looking glaringly out of place, while Russia have a severe lack of depth in forward roles.
Kerzhakov remains the clear first choice, but tends to lose his nerve and shooting accuracy in big games, while Alexander Kokorin is a huge emerging talent but prone to injury (he missed the Portugal game with chronic tendonitis).
Pogrebnyak would offer a physical presence off the bench and also has the advantage of having regularly faced good defenses, something often lacking in the Russian league where Kerzhakov and Kokorin play.
Russia sorely need a third-choice striker and Smolov is not the man for the job. The sooner Pogrebnyak comes back into the fold, the more use he could be at the World Cup.

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