Rus­sia’s World Cup hero, Ak­in­feev, re­tires from in­ter­na­tional soc­cer


MOSCOW: Rus­sian goal­keeper Igor Ak­in­feev is re­tir­ing from in­ter­na­tional soc­cer af­ter lead­ing the na­tional side as cap­tain to this year’s World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals on home soil.

The 32-year-old CSKA Moscow player’s ac­ro­batic penalty saves cap­ti­vated home crowds and helped Rus­sia to their best tour­na­ment fin­ish since the col­lapse of the Soviet Union.

“There is a be­gin­ning and an end to ev­ery story,” Ak­in­feev was quoted as say­ing on CSKA’s web­site. “My story with the na­tional team has also reached its log­i­cal end.”

Ak­in­feev earned 112 caps for his coun­try since his de­but in 2004 as an 18-yearold, ac­cord­ing to the Rus­sian Foot­ball Union.

The high­light of his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer came at this year’s World Cup hosted by Rus­sia.

“It was a great hon­our for me to lead the Rus­sian team as cap­tain at the World Cup,” he said. “Hon­estly I couldn’t have dreamt of it. But it hap­pened and prob­a­bly was the peak of my ca­reer with the na­tional team.”

Ak­in­feev played a key role in help­ing his team reach the quar­ter-fi­nals, where they lost 4-3 to Croa­tia in a penalty shootout. He saved two spot-kicks to help Rus­sia elim­i­nate 2010 world cham­pi­ons Spain in the Round of 16.

Af­ter the match, graf­fiti of the goal­keeper ap­peared around the coun­try and his kick-save be­came a sym­bol of Rus­sia’s un­ex­pected suc­cess at the tour­na­ment. “We didn’t win any medals at the World Cup, but all the guys did what they could,” he said. “The most im­por­tant thing is that no one was in­dif­fer­ent among us.”

Rus­sia had been heav­ily de­pen­dent on Ak­in­feev, who be­fore the World Cup had had a che­quered his­tory in in­ter­na­tion­als.

At the 2014 World Cup, he fum­bled the ball to gift South Ko­rea a goal and a 1-1 draw, a mis­take that con­trib­uted to Rus­sia’s group-stage exit from the tour­na­ment.

“I’m leav­ing with peace of mind,” Ak­in­feev said. “A very good and promis­ing gen­er­a­tion has ap­peared in Rus­sia. Some guys al­ready re­vealed them­selves to be real lead­ers at this World Cup.”


Rus­sia’s Igor Ak­in­feev saves a penalty goal from Spain’s Iago As­pas dur­ing a shoot-out at the World Cup Round of 16 Spain vs Rus­sia match at Luzh­niki Sta­dium, Moscow, on July 1.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.