Jul 15, 2015

    Russia gives Capello the boot after dismal run


    THE Russian Football Union (RFU) dismissed Fabio Capello as national coach yesterday, ending the Italian's three years in charge after a string of disappointing results.

    Capello - who is reported to be the highest-paid coach in international football - took over the Russian team in 2012 and took them to the 2014 World Cup, before being given a lucrative new contract to stay in the job till the end of the 2018 World Cup, which Russia will host.

    The former England boss was expected in Moscow to formally end his contract with RFU.

    A source told Russian news wire R-Sport that the 69-year-old coach will receive around 930 million roubles (S$22 million) in compensation.

    "That's the way of the football world," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Capello's assistant Oreste Cinquini as saying in comments translated into Russian. "But we don't have any hard feelings towards the RFU."

    Capello has come under increasing pressure following a dismal run of results and the team's lacklustre performances in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

    Russia have just two wins from six matches in qualifying Group G: a 4-0 home victory over Liechtenstein last September, before being awarded a 3-0 victory from the abandoned clash against Montenegro in Podgorica in March.

    They have been held at home by minnows Moldova and suffered two defeats by group leaders Austria.

    Russia are third in the group with four matches to go, meaning their place at Euro 2016 in France this time next year is far from secure, as only the best third-placed side from the nine groups will qualify along with the top two sides from each section, and the rest going into play-offs.

    RFU has not named any candidates to replace the Italian at the helm of the country's national side so far, although the local press had earlier named CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky, FC Krasnodar manager Oleg Kononov and former Russian assistant coach Alexander Borodyuk as possible successors.

    The union will need to find a replacement for Capello as soon as possible, as the country's next Euro 2016 qualifier is a potentially decisive fixture at home to second-placed Sweden on Sept 5.

    Discontent towards Capello started after Russia were knocked out at the group stage of the World Cup in Brazil last year - without winning a game.

    He was widely criticised and only the backing of Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko prevented him from losing his job.

    After last month's 1-0 defeat by Austria in Moscow, a group of Russian football fans started a fund-raising campaign aimed at collecting the 21.4 million euros (S$32 million) needed to buy Capello out of his contract.

    A recent opinion poll showed that 53 per cent of fans in the country wanted him to step down.

    Lawmakers in the lower House of Russia's Parliament, the State Duma, praised the decision to let the Italian go.

    "It's a good step by both the RFU and Capello," the RIA-Novosti agency quoted an unnamed deputy as saying. "And without doubt, it is a very courageous act by Capello. Despite the fact that he has failed to show his best here in Russia, he is definitely a great coach."