In the last friendly match in 2023, the Russian national team had a lot of fun with their malleable opponent who came to visit them. She defeated the Cubans in Volgograd with a score of 8:0.
The harsh reality in which domestic football has been living for more than a year and a half has given birth to a curious anomaly. It’s interesting: if the Russian national team had not found itself in isolation and, say, with this match they were simply warming up for an important game of the European Championship qualifying tournament within the November window, would at least a tenth of the 40,000-strong audience have gathered in the stands of the Volgograd stadium? Would these people, not caring about the rather nasty weather, be as noisy and energetic as on Monday, when they seemed to be driving their people to perform great feats? Would the hosts' starting line-up be of the same quality - that is, maybe not the most combative, but certainly not experimental, for the future, but with the majority of the undisputed leaders? And, finally, these leaders and their partners would play just as responsibly against opponents who are not even in the top 150 of the International Football Federation (FIFA) rankings, and they would stock up on boots for the Volgograd lawn after arriving in Volgograd in “Sportmaster” - suitable didn't you bring it with you?
And the responsibility in the Russian team’s game was truly through the roof. And for half a time, one person prevented this responsibility, flavored with too obvious superiority in class, from materializing into the goal.
Cuban goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena looked eerily like a man who wants to continue his career at all costs in some place where he doesn’t have to run to Sportmaster for decent boots.
Alexander Golovin immediately tried to pierce him at point-blank range, but Arozarena got out of it. After that, he was hit dangerously by defender Maxim Osipenko, about whom you couldn’t even say that he joined the attack: joining is still something sudden, but here for ten minutes there was no need to step back. And again Arozarena resisted. And soon Golovin shot again - also in the corner and with a ricochet. But Arozarena, judging by the expression on his face, did not understand how he managed to survive, and in such a situation he was not at a loss.
The Cubans were let down by the unnecessary desire in their position to play normal football, which implies that sometimes it is necessary to cross the line that divides the field in half. Alexander Soldatenkov took the ball away from them, and Ivan Oblyakov and Alexander Golovin, who ran away, staged a small show of subtle passes. The last one was especially subtle - from Golovin a little back to Oblyakov. And this was already the case when, even if two Arozarena stood at the Cuban goal, they would not be able to escape.
However, literally a minute later, the visiting goalkeeper showed that if anyone thought that a missed goal would deprive him of inspiration, he was greatly mistaken. The blow that Arozarena pulled from Daler Kuzyaev looked unstoppable - point-blank, on horseback.
But, of course, the next Russian goals did not take long to arrive. The hosts dealt too easily with the flimsy Cuban defense, Golovin was too good, demonstrating live how he, playing for Monaco this season, is conquering, presumably, a much more demanding audience than the Volgograd one. He distinguished himself after Oblyakov paid him back for his debut goal for the national team with an equally neat pass.
Alexander Golovin also took part in the third scoring combination. Moreover, in order to contribute to it, he didn’t even need to touch the ball - he put pressure on Raiko Arozarena and forced the Cubans to make a turnover, converted by Anton Miranchuk.
True, even without Golovin, who was replaced during the break, everything worked out for the Russian team. She found motivation somewhere!
One could get the feeling that its players were promised something for the record: the Russian team won the biggest victory in its history in 2019, when it defeated the Sanmarineans with a score of 9:0.
She raced towards the record at full speed thanks, first of all, to those who entered the main national team of the country only during its isolation. In the second half, along with Alexander Sobolev and Andrei Mostov, Arozarena and backup Ismel Morgado, who at some point came out to suffer in his place, scored - Alexander Silyanov, Danil Prutsev, Nikita Krivtsov, who showed off in the penalty area with dizzying dribbling.
The record was close. Sergei Pinyaev, another young footballer who had the opportunity to mock the Cubans, had only to convert the only penalty of the match. But the Russian team didn’t get along with him. Also some kind of anomaly.