Sunday, October 22, 2017

Confederations Cup Diary: Maradona at the final for a smashing time

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 3 Jul 2017

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And so, farewell from St Petersburg and Russia. Chile and Germany brought the curtain down on Confederations Cup 2017 on Sunday before a star-studded audience as Lars Stindl secured a 1-0 win for the world champions in a pulsating contest.

Following a couple of days that could at best be described as autumnal, the grand old city was also bathed in sunshine for the occasion, delighting fans and that famously sizable Chilean travelling contingent.

As if that wasn’t enough, a veteran striker was threatened with the same humiliation once endured by a Motown superstar. How would he get on?

PARKLIFE

The stroll up from the matchday bus drop-off point to Krestovsky Stadium is certainly a very pleasant one.

Four hours before kick-off, fans were rubbing shoulders with locals enjoying a leisurely Sunday in the lush environs of Kirov Central Culture and Leisure Park.

When the big games arrive here in 12 months’ time – this stadium that infamously opened eight years behind schedule and at 548 per cent over its initial budget earlier this year will host seven World Cup matches, including Russia’s second game and a semi-final – it is easy to imagine the atmosphere in the park being incredible.

STAR SPANGLED STRAGGLER

Of course, there were plenty of Germany and Chile fans soaking up the build-up before kick-off in the final, but there was also evidence of supporters from all around the world.

One particularly lavish sombrero suggested one gentleman had got the location of the third-place play-off wrong, while another was slightly boldly striding around in front of the statue of early Bolshevik leader Sergey Kirov draped in the American flag.

The welcome we’ve all received in St Petersburg has been nothing but completely warm and friendly and this seemed to demonstrate just how much some fans are willing to let it all hang out, those pre-tournament fears of reprisals a faded memory.

MARADONA, RONALDO AND THE GOVERNOR

FIFA certainly did not slack off when it came to compiling its guest list for the final.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was not in attendance, with deputy prime minister and doping allegations rant man Vitaly Mutko representing the government in his absence, alongside governor of St Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was naturally in play, as was secretary general Fatma Samoura and head honchos from the competing national federations.

Looking on with varying degrees of envy at Joachim Low’s embarrassment of riches were France boss Didier Deschamps, England manager Gareth Southgate and Brazil coach Tite.

The real treat was imagining the conversations between the former international players or “FIFA legends”, led by Diego Maradona and Brazil idol Ronaldo. Samuel Eto’o and Marcel Desailly were also here alongside home favourites Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Alexei Smertin (more from them later).

Representing Chile was Ivan Zamarano. We can’t imagine the formal setting prevented him from belting out the national anthem. Opera singer Placido Domingo was even on hand to offer a tip or two.

PENALTIES, SOMBREROS AND DJ SMASH

As is customary at such global sporting events, there was a closing ceremony and it was marvellously bizarre.

When the clock on the Peter and Paul Fortress struck 19:20 local time (17:20 GMT), we were wound back in time to 19th century St Petersburg and, after a bit of Swan Lake, out strode the suited Smertin and Kerzhakov – foregoing the traditional dress for their part in a recreation of Russia’s first official football match.

Kerzhakov negotiated his own potential Diana Ross moment by burying his penalty. Hopefully new Zenit boss Roberto Mancini made a note.

Then it was on to a celebration of all previous Confederations Cup winners, which meant a lot of Brazil and carnival. National stereotypes were absolute fair game as a giant sombrero and cacti for Mexico in 1999 was followed by extravagant frocks and a dance to Edith Piaf for France in 2003.

Bringing the house down was home nation favourite DJ Smash on the wheels of steel. Wallop. 

AND FINALLY…

It only feels right that we should leave the last word to the champions, or perhaps that should be song.

As head coach Low reflected with pride upon the mature display his young stars served up, they decided it was time to drop the imposing game face.

Led by Emre Can and Joshua Kimmich, in the squad bounced to gleefully interrupt Low and Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s post-match news conference.

Long may the celebrations continue, they’ve been an absolute pleasure to watch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

Soccernews.com is news blog for soccer with comprehensive coverage of all the major leagues in Europe, as well as MLS in the United States. In addition we offer breaking news for transfers and transfer rumors, ticket sales, betting tips and offers, match previews, and in-depth editorials.

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