5 OF THE BEST

Inside Sport - - World Cup 2018 -

De­spite the USSR’s in­ter­na­tional foot­ball suc­cesses, the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate and lim­its on trans­fers beyond the coun­try meant that many of its play­ers were de­nied the fame their abil­i­ties de­served. We look back at five icons of com­mu­nist foot­ball.

Lev Yashin

It is telling that FIFA’s Golden Glove tro­phy, awarded to the best goal­keeper at the World Cup, was for many years named af­ter Yashin (pic­tured right). Still the only cus­to­dian to ever win the pres­ti­gious Bal­lon d’Or, Yashin was a key fig­ure in the USSR’s tri­umphs at the ’56 Olympics and ’60 Euros. Nick­named “the Black Spi­der” due to his choice of on-field at­tire, Yashin also had a stint in goals with Dy­namo Moscow’s ice hockey team, win­ning the Soviet Cup in 1953. He was named in FIFA’s World Cup All-Time Team in 1994.

Vik­tor Ponedel­nik

Born in Ros­tov-on-Don, a host city for the 2018 World Cup, striker Ponedel­nik had a brief but bril­liant ten­ure. Un­capped un­til two weeks be­fore the 1960 Euros, he scored an ex­tra-time win­ner in the fi­nal. Forced to re­tire for health rea­sons in the mid-1960s, Ponedel­nik is still fondly re­mem­bered for that goal – a life-sized statute com­mem­o­rates him out­side FC Ros­tov’s sta­dium.

Ri­nat Dasaev

Liv­ing in the shadow of Yashin is not easy, but Dasaev has a strong claim to be­ing the sec­ond-best goal­keeper in Soviet his­tory. Born in As­trakhan near the Caspian Sea, Dasaev was a keen swim­mer be­fore an arm op­er­a­tion forced a switch to foot­ball. He recorded more than 300 caps for Spar­tak Moscow, and helped the USSR to sec­ond

at the 1988 Euros, be­fore mak­ing a high­pro­file switch to Sevilla. In Spain, Dasaev earned an amus­ingly po­lit­i­cal nick­name: the Iron Cur­tain.

Ed­uard Streltsov

Dubbed the Rus­sian Pele, Streltsov is re­mem­bered as one of the Soviet Union’s most ex­cit­ing out­field play­ers. Yet his sparkling ca­reer was over­shad­owed by a rape con­vic­tion just be­fore the 1958 World Cup, and many be­lieve he was framed by Com­mu­nist Party of­fi­cials. Streltsov pled guilty – by some ac­counts, he was mis­led into do­ing so – and spent seven years in a gu­lag. Re­mark­ably, he re­turned to foot­ball af­ter his re­lease and was twice named Soviet Foot­baller of the Year.

Al­bert Sh­esternyov

A great de­fender with an even bet­ter nick­name – “Ivan the Ter­ri­ble” – Sh­esternyov was an im­pos­ing libero who col­lected 90 caps for the Sovi­ets be­fore re­tir­ing in 1972. But his ten­ure was soured by one great mis­for­tune, at the 1968 Euro semi-fi­nal be­tween the Sovi­ets and Italy. Dead­locked af­ter ex­tra time, the re­sult was deter­mined by a coin toss (this was the era be­fore penalty shoot-outs). Sh­esternyov called wrongly, and Italy went on to win the tour­na­ment on home soil.

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