Will Russia’s limp exit spoil Fabio Capello’s legacy?

The Rio Report

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Capello refs

Algiers is a delightful place, apparently. A rich cultural history has meant a wide variety in architecture, featuring some spectacular religious buildings that would delight the most cerebral of tourists.

However, one imagines that when Fabio Capello plans his next holiday with wife Laura, Algeria will be the last place he'll want to go.

Capello has managed at two World Cups, and at both his teams have been frustrated by the Fennec Foxes. In 2010 his England team played out one of the most lamentable games the World Cup has ever seen, a game so dull and lifeless it could have been used as a sedative, and now Algeria have knocked out Capello's Russia, coming back from 1-0 down to claim a dramatic draw and a place in the last 16.


In truth, it's better for the tournament that Algeria are through ahead of Russia, their passionate gung-ho style making for much better viewing than Capello's relatively bloodless side, who were almost as insipid as England were in South Africa four years ago.

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One of the things that recommends Capello as a manager is how adaptable he is. At all of his club management jobs, he has altered his style of play (if perhaps not people skills) to suit the resources available to him, from the impenetrable defence in the early days at Milan to the swashbuckling Roma of Francesco Totti, Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta.

That sort of thing should make him ideal for international management, where a coach has to make do with what he has, choosing from what is often a fairly limited pool of players. If you don't have a decent left winger you have to improvise something, or perhaps alter your style of play to suit the resources available, something that Capello's past record suggested he would be good at.

However, Russia's departure at the first round this year follows England's desperately disappointing exit from 2010, both coming after very impressive qualifying campaigns, that suggested a strong performance in the finals was almost inevitable. However, he was unable to break Russia's record of failing to progress beyond the group stages in every World Cup since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

It would appear that there is one thing the great universal Capello, who jumped just about every possible hurdle in club football, can't do, and that's manage a team at a tournament. Capello's preparation for their final game against Algeria was hardly ideal, and one wonders what his team made of him exploding at a Russian journalist, calling him a liar in front of the massed media. That of course is not the reason Russia are out, but it does indicate that tensions were high in their camp ahead of the match.


Perhaps his controlling instincts become too much, so when he has full command over absolutely everything his players do, it becomes all-consuming and overpowering, and ultimately counter-productive.

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“We have things to prove in this World Cup,” said the veteran striker Alexander Kerzhakov before the tournament. “It’s been 12 years since Russia have participated in the World Cup so our objective is to play more than three games.”

Objective failed, by those criteria, and by any reasonable standard Capello has not done much at this tournament to suggest he is worth the £6.7million paid to him by the Russian FA and their friends.

Will this failure at international tournaments colour Capello's legacy? This is a man who has won seven league titles with three clubs (nine with four if you count the two Serie A crowns taken away from Juventus in the Calciopli scandal) in two countries, as well as the 1994 Champions League. He is known as the Don, the great grandmaster of management, but in what will most likely be his final two jobs in football, he will be seen to have failed.

After Russia sealed qualification for the World Cup last October, condemning Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo to the playoffs, the Russian press applauded Capello. After this failure, they might be wondering if a change is required as they look towards hosting the tournament in 2018.

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