Capello backs contrite Russian keeper Akinfeev

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Giving his backing: Fabio Capello has supported his goalkeeper despite Akinfeev making a huge error against South Korea.

Fabio Capello threw his support behind Igor Akinfeev after the goalkeeper's self-confessed "kids" error very nearly spiked his 68th birthday celebrations and Russia's return to the World Cup after a 12-year absence.

Capello watched on aghast as Akinfeev's fumbling let in Lee Keun-Ho's 30 metre shot to gift South Korea the lead in the Group H clash in Cuiaba.

Akinfeev's blushes were spared when Alexander Kerzhakov levelled three minutes after coming on to salvage a 1-1 draw against the 2002 semi-finalists.

Despite the near catastrophic start Capello was in benevolent mood towards the CSKA stopper after a result that left both countries trailing Belgium who head Group H after their 2-1 win over Algeria.

"Just like some players can miss penalties it can happen that a keeper makes a mistake as well," the Italian said. "You can accept a mistake from a great keeper like Akinfeev. Today it turned out fine as we were able to make up the difference. I'm very happy with Akinfeev."

The keeper himself cut a contrite figure after the final whistle at the Arena Pantanal.

"It was a kid's mistake and I bare full responsibility," he admitted. "I can't say that it was because of worry. "Maybe I wasn't sure in myself, I don't know. The guys supported me. I say thanks. The goalkeeper of the national team shouldn't make mistakes like this one."

After a cautious start Korea's goal awoke Capello's Russian bear, which had virtually lain dormant throughout the first half.

"My players showed a wonderful reaction after we conceded the goal," said the man in charge of England at the last World Cup. "We were so nervous at the start, the players weren't as smooth as normal," he added.

"But it was visible after the Korean goal that we sprung right back and played like we know how to."

He said he'd thanked his side for their reaction.

"It was the greatest birthday gift I could receive, this means the team is willing, capable and can do it."

While Russia now face Belgium, the Koreans' next attempt to qualify for the knockout stages is against the Algerians in Porte Alegre on Sunday.

Coach Hong Myung-Bo, who attained iconic status in Seoul after captaining his country to the last four in 2002, had mixed feelings at the outcome.

"We had the game in the bag for a small moment, and then they levelled, so we have to move on now and concentrate on our next game.

"I'm very satisfied with the performance of my players, tactically and physically they gave their utmost. Man-of-the-match Son Heung-Min described his World cup debut as "a dream".

"I really wanted to show something in this game," added the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder who fulfilled a more attacking role than he does normally for his club.

"We had a good match today, it will help our confidence, but we can be better than this."

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Top 5 saves in World Cup history

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Making his mark: Ochoa's incredible save against Brazil will write his name in World Cup history.

After Guillermo Ochoa's incredible save from Neymar to help Mexico claim a deserved 0-0 with Brazil, we look at the five best saves in World Cup history.

No. 5: 2006 World Cup Final – Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)

You would always expect a ‘keeper of Buffon’s standards to make this save, but the sheer importance of it means it deserves a place on this list. And the fact he was denying Zinedine Zidane makes it all the more memorable.

No. 4: 1982 World Cup – Rinat Dasaev (Russia)

The Russian keeper produced his finest moment with a save from a Joe Jordan header, flinging himself to his left to tip the effort around the post and ultimately deny Scotland qualification to the knockout stages.

No. 3: 2006 World Cup – Jose Porras (Costa Rica) – The number one save in the below video. 

They may have ultimately lost 3-0 to Ecuador but this incredible save (4'25'') from Porras made it a game to remember. A deflected strike appears to have caught the ‘keeper off guard but some incredible reactions see him shift his body in mid air to make an outstanding save.

No. 2: 2014 World Cup – Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)

Not many would have expected a towering header from Neymar but once the Brazilian connected it seemed destined to nestle in the corner. Ochoa had other ideas and somehow clawed the ball away just as it was heading over the line. Quite brilliant.

No. 1: 1970 World Cup – Gordon Banks (England)

Probably the most famous save in the history of the game and for us, still the best ever. Pele was waiting for the net to bulge after thumping a header goalwards but Banks’ agility and ability to push it over is simply remarkable.

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Maradona dubs German star Muller ‘The Skinny One’ after World Cup hat-trick

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Hat-trick hero: Muller fired a treble in the 4-o win over Portugal.

Goal-scoring machine Gerd Mueller was unkindly nicknamed 'short, fat Mueller' during his career, now Germany's latest hot-shot star has been dubbed 'El Flaco' – the Skinny One – by Argentina legend Maradona.

Thomas Mueller claimed the first hat-trick of these World Cup finals in Monday's 4-0 drubbing of Portugal in Germany's Group G opener in Salvador.

The Bayern Munich star, 24, is normally deployed as a winger or attacking midfielder and has only made rare appearances as striker for either club or country.

But the gangly Mueller repaid the faith of head coach Joachim Loew with an impressive display as a striker against Portugal, which led to Maradona – who almost singlehandedly inspired Argentina to the 1986 World Cup trophy – dubbing him 'El Flaco'.

"He has no muscles, but today he tore them (Portugal) apart," an impressed Maradona, who knows a thing or two about goal-scoring, told Venezuelan television.

The goal-scoring exploits of stocky 1970s star Gerd Mueller are legendary amongst Germany fans, but his younger namesake currently has his football-mad country swooning.

The 68-year-old Gerd – also nicknamed 'Das Bomber' – retired after scoring West Germany's winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final against the Netherlands.

He finished his career with an incredible 68 goals in 62 internationals and the younger Mueller is producing similar impressive statistics with 20 goals in 50 internationals.

"The lad's fast, he's got a good technique – he's going to be a great player," Gerd Muller said.

With eight World Cup goals now to his credit, the younger Mueller out-shone Portugal's World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.

While the Portuguese captain is renowned for his personal grooming and showing off his finely-honed torso in his goal celebrations, Mueller has a touch of the boy-next-door.

"It's his unorthodox playing style that characterizes Thomas Mueller," ex-Germany captain Oliver Kahn told braodcasters ZDF. "Sometimes he doesn't know himself exactly what he's going to do.

"There's a lot of intuition involved, he always knows where he has to run.

"His body language is very important, he makes a strong impression and says 'we want to be world champions' – I like that." 

'He's a cool guy'

Mueller's self-confidence was clear as he picked up where he left off at the 2010 World Cup – his break-through tournament – when he finished joint top-scorer to claim both the Golden Boot and best young player awards in South Africa.

"He's a light-hearted, cool guy," enthused German FA president Wolfgang Niersbach. "He says before the tournament that he would again like to be the World Cup's top-scorer – then he goes and scores three goals.

"He's relaxed and determined at the same time."

Mueller started against Portugal ahead of Germany's all-time top-scorer Miroslav Klose, 36, with the Lazio star just one short of now retired Brazilian great Ronaldo's record of 15 World Cup goals.

But Loew said Mueller's unorthodox runs are an asset which leaves defences guessing the Bavarian's next move.

"He is a very unorthodox player and you can't really predict his lines of running, but he has one aim and that is 'how can I score a goal?'", said Loew. "That makes him so dangerous, especially in the box."

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