25 Feb 2022 | 15:31 | Football
“Please don’t bring up the worst memory of my life, I’m still trying to forget it. None of us want to live after the football game against Ukraine. Honestly, all of us feel better than killing ourselves. or at least retire from football forever. I can’t remember exactly what happened. It’s all foggy now. It’s painful and not worth it, it’s like we ran a marathon and were left out. wear to death”.
Those are the words of Oleg Romantsev in 2014, 15 years after the last official match between Russia and Ukraine. The former Russia coach could not accept that bad experience. Both Russia and Ukraine do. When referee David Elleray blew the whistle to end the match in Moscow on a rainy night in October 1999, everyone knew for sure that this match would go down in history forever.
Everything will probably start in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) team was formed temporarily to attend Euro 1992 but then all disbanded.
FIFA and UEFA decided that Russia would inherit the entire legacy of the Soviet Union, while the rest of the countries had to start from scratch. Ukraine immediately realized this injustice after they made a great contribution to the strength of the Soviet Union. of the Soviet Union. During the reign of Valeriy Lobanovskyi in the late 1980s, the mainstays of the Soviet team were all the stars of Dynamo Kyiv.
There are at least 7 players who always start from the beginning in the Soviet Union’s Euro 1988 runner-up victory is Ukrainian. To fight the fire, FIFA allows players to choose a shirt color to dedicate. Many Ukrainian stars have chosen to play for Russia with the goal of attending major tournaments, from Viktor Onopko, Andrei Kanchelskis, Igor Nikiforov, Ilya Tsymbalar to Sergei Yuran.
Ukraine team only has young players left. It is not surprising that Ukraine struggled in the 90s. They failed to win tickets to the World Cup and Euro finals. Ukraine’s only spark is vitality from the young generation, with its pioneer Andriy Shevchenko.
Russia was supposed to honor the Soviet Union in the international arena, but it failed. The Russian football management system in the 90s was a disaster. On the eve of the 1994 World Cup, many stars even refused to attend the tournament. Russia was eliminated from the group stage of the world cup in the US and suffered a similar hardship at Euro 1996. They did not even win tickets to the 1998 World Cup.
A talented generation with Onopko, Mostovoi, Karpin… can only hope for Euro 2000 to seek glory. At the same time, Ukraine began to confidently compete with the top teams. They succeeded with the 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign when they overcame Portugal to finish second, just behind the Euro champion, Germany. Losing to Croatia (who later won bronze at the World Cup) was painful, but the future was still open to Shevchenko and his teammates.
Fate put Ukraine and Russia in the same group in the Euro 2000 Qualifier. The situation is not simple when France and Iceland are also in this group. The top team will go to Belgium and the Netherlands in the summer of 2000, while the second place team will have to play in the play-offs.
The head coach of the Russian team at that time, Anatoliy Byshovets, was not a strange name to Ukraine. Mr. Byshovets led the Soviet Union to win the 1988 Olympic gold medal but failed at Euro 1992. Born in the Ukrainian capital, this man devoted his entire career to Dynamo Kyiv.
Four years ago, Ukraine also wanted to bring Byshovets to be the head coach. Byshovets’ close friend in Dynamo Kyiv, Josef Szabo, suggested that he accept. But after negotiations, Szabo became the head coach of Ukraine instead of Byshovets.
Suddenly, the old comrades were on both sides of the front line. The first leg was played on December 5, 1998. This is the first official match between Russia and Ukraine. Many reporters hastily called this the “Match of the Century”. They don’t know what awaits them a year later.
Russia did not have the best preparation for this match. When the Russian team was about to take off for Kyiv, the plane suddenly stopped. Moscow airport decided not to take off without paying for gas. The players had to wait for 2 hours before the cash was brought in.
Coach Byshovets understands Ukraine well and is afraid of opponents. Russia does not have the best force: Two key defenders Yuri Nikiforov and Dmitri Khlestov are absent. The “tsar” Aleksandr Mostovoi had physical problems, and the Byshovets decided not to take the risk. Igor Dobrovolski was kicked in as a substitute.
Under the cheers of 82,000 home spectators, Ukraine led 2-0 early. Mostovoi was only introduced into the field after 65 minutes. Almost immediately, the Celta Vigo midfielder made an impact when he created Yevgeni Varlamov’s goal.
Goalkeeper Dmitri Kharine of Russia was then sent off for stopping Sergei Rebrov in the penalty area. With 10 men, Russia stubbornly fought back but only made the match end with a score of 2-3. “Russia fought to the last minute with only 10 men to prove how strong it was,” Byshovets stressed.
The Ukrainian players were immediately rewarded. The President of Shakhtar Donetsk Club gave a hot bonus of 100,000 USD right in the dressing room. Even happier when France was held to a draw by Iceland. The campaign to win tickets to Euro 2000 couldn’t have started better with Ukraine.
Russia then met France in Moscow and lost 2-3. Not many fans expect from the home team and morale is even lower after 2 consecutive defeats. Byshovets was heavily criticized in the media. They consider his habit of constantly changing formations weakening Russia.
4 days after losing to France, Russia lost to Iceland 0-1. Never in history has Russia started qualifying for a major tournament with three consecutive defeats.
At the same time, Ukraine won easily against Andorra and Armenia to lead the group with 9 points. France is second with 7 points. Iceland has 5 points, Russia 0 points, equal to Andorra.
Byshovets was later fired. Head coach of Spartak Moscow, Romantsev, was brought in to replace. When no one is expecting anything, miracles happen.
Russia beat Armenia 3-0 and thrashed Andorra 6-1, while Ukraine held a draw with France in Paris. However, Ukraine’s 1-1 draw against Iceland in Kyiv signaled a change of heart. In June 1999, Russia was about to have historical results.
A win over France at the Stade de France will help Russia keep its hopes of qualifying through the play-offs. Les Bleus also need 3 points to beat Ukraine and win tickets directly to the Euro. Zinedine Zidane is absent due to injury, but Russia also has problems when Mostovoi has an ankle problem. In general, France is superior to Russia in all aspects.
Mr. Romantsev is still betting on Mostovoi. The result: the conductor born in 1968 left the field after only 26 minutes. But that’s also when Russia found the hero Aleksandr Panov.
Zenit’s striker put Russia ahead just 5 minutes before the end of the first half. France came upstream at the beginning of the second half with goals from Emmanuel Petit and Sylvain Wiltord. 75 minutes, Panov spoke again. Russia equalized 2-2.
The French were angry. The World Cup champion pulled the whole squad up to besiege the Russian goal to find a goal to set the score. But the Stade de France was silent. Five minutes before time was up, Valeriy Karpin scored a 3-2 win from Tsymbalar’s cross.
Four days later, 38,000 fans filled the glass of Dinamo stadium to wait for the match against Iceland. The Nordic team at that time was still unbeaten and made the whole world believe in miracles. But Russia suppressed it. Karpin’s decisive goal helped Russia win the 4th match in a row. At the same time, Ukraine only drew 0-0 against Armenia.
In September 1999, Ukraine drew 0-0 with France. Russia won their 6th match in a row when they defeated Andorra. From hell, Russia rose to become a candidate for a ticket to the Euro.
Before the last match, the situation could not be more attractive when Ukraine topped the table with 19 points, Russia and France had the same 18 points, and Iceland had 15 points. Russia will meet Ukraine in Moscow while France will play Iceland in Paris.
All 4 teams must win to maintain hope of progressing. Ukraine has 3 points to continue, if it is a draw, they will drop to play-off if France wins Iceland. If it loses, Ukraine will almost certainly be ousted. For Russia, 3 points is a prerequisite to continue. Draw or lose results will stop them.
Both Russia and Ukraine are seething before this match. Self-determination is all in their hands and no one wants to be left out. The Russian government, which is not interested in the national team after 3 consecutive defeats, suddenly wants to support the home team more than ever.
Huge bonuses are promised if Russia passes the qualifying round. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and many other high-ranking officials all attended the match. There are even rumors that President Boris Yeltsin will appear despite his health condition.
Russian reporters talked about the home team’s starting lineup. Who will tutor Shevchenko is the most interested question. Many people believe Khlestov, but Alexei Smertin is also a good choice after locking down Anelka in Paris. In the end, Romantsev surprised everyone by choosing Yuri Drozdov. The Lokomotiv defender will accompany Sheva to the dressing room.
Ukraine’s starting lineup is easier to predict when based entirely on Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo Kyiv vertical axis. Sheva and Rebrov play the main attackers. Arsenal rookie Oleg Luzhnhy plays at right-back. Oleksandr Holovko and Vladyslav Vashchuk are central defenders.
Ukraine started better when pressing well in the first 10 minutes. But Russia had a chance when Karpin cleared Khokhlov to escape. Despite being stopped, but Russia regained its spirit to continuously attack Ukraine’s goal.
After 21 minutes, news came from Paris. France took the lead and temporarily rose to the top of the table. Russia is pushed down to third, which means disqualification. Russia and Ukraine are constantly tit-for-tat, but everything still stops at the level of opportunity. From Panov, Karpin to Alenichev, no one succeeded in shaking the net.
In Paris, Youri Djorkaeff gave France a 2-0 lead over Iceland. Pressure in the dressing room weighs heavily on both Russia and Ukraine. The second half was no different from the first 45 minutes. The terrible noise in the stands made the match more and more tense. Ukraine nearly took the lead when Sergej Rebrov got a chance to head in the area but the ball went wide.
But 11 minutes after the second half started, the god of luck suddenly smiled at both Russia and Ukraine. In Paris, Iceland suddenly equalized 2-2. The situation is still under control.
With the advantage of the middle line, Russia constantly organizes stormy attacks. Alenichev fired a long shot but the ball went over the bar. Romantsev decided to add a striker to the field. Russia all hands.
Minute 71, bad news flew back from Paris. David Trezeguet made it 3-2 for France. Both Russia and Ukraine understand that it is too difficult for Iceland to make a story before the World Cup champion. They have to save themselves.
Russia did it before the referee suddenly gave the home team a free kick from a distance of only 18 meters. Karpin, the hero against France and Iceland, stepped up to take the free kick. The powerful shot of the midfielder wearing the Celta Vigo shirt hit the fence and changed direction to hit Ukraine.
Luznhiki exploded. Russian flag flying in the sky. On the VIP area, Prime Minister Putin clenched his fists and ascended to the sky triumphantly. Just keep the score until the end of the match, Russia will win tickets to Belgium and the Netherlands.
Ukraine was stunned for a moment but did not give up. Coach Szabo immediately launched two attacking players into the field to increase his firepower to find a goal to salvage the opportunity to go to the Euro through the play-off ticket.
Outside the pitch, Romantsev lit a cigarette non-stop. At this moment, something unexpected happened. Rather, no one knew about it except the insiders. But years later, the Russian press revealed that after Karpin’s goal, President Yeltsin asked his secretary to call the leader of the TV channel that was broadcasting the Russia-Ukraine match and suggested to BLV Viktor Gusev to congratulate him on winning the ticket. attend the Euro of the national team.
“But the game isn’t over yet ,” replied the station’s leader, Konstantin Ernst. “It can bring bad luck . “
“It doesn’t matter ,” emphasized the President’s secretary. “We’ll see ,” Ernst said.
While the call was being made, Smertin pushed Mizin down by the sideline. Ukraine is awarded a penalty. Everything is not so dangerous. Shevchenko can’t shoot straight from this range and angle. Everyone thought Sheva would cross, including goalkeeper Filimonov. He stepped forward to catch the ball, but Sheva decided to shoot straight.
The kick didn’t go too far, but when it was close to the goal, the ball suddenly turned in. Filimonov went out of his way, but was completely able to punch the ball out to relieve the siege. But this goalkeeper wants to catch. That decision ruined everything. The ball hit Filimonov’s hand before hitting the net.
“Oh my God” , BLV Gusev shouted on national airwaves. The Russians could not believe their own eyes. Their utopian efforts were ruined by a personal mistake.
Ukraine is also amazed. It took a few seconds for them to realize the reality. Shevchenko, who missed many chances in games against France, Iceland, got his first goal in Qualifiers and is celebrating like crazy.
“I knew the chances of scoring were very small, but really expected their goalkeeper to make a mistake. It was true,” Sheva said after the game.
The Russians were shocked. They have to score in the remaining 4 minutes. Otherwise, Karpin and teammates will be eliminated. Ukraine also needs a table to continue. They again had the opportunity from the direct free kick, with the same distance and angle of the shot as the opening goal.
Sheva shot better this time, the ball hit the far corner, but Filimonov played brilliantly to push the ball out. “Why didn’t he do that before?” is the question every Russian roars in front of the TV screen.
With only a minute left in the game, Alenichev swooped down from the left and made a desperate cross into the box. Mizin cleared the ball but bounced off Khokhlov’s body. When everyone believed in a miracle for Russia, the ball went over the bar.
That’s all. Russia is eliminated. France topped the group, while Ukraine won tickets to the play-offs. Coach Szabo kissed Shevchenko on the way to the dressing room. The Russian players almost died standing on the field.
“This is a tragedy. I don’t want to talk about the match anymore. Russia should have won ,” Karpin said.
“When Shevchenko scored, I almost had a heart attack,” the president of the Russian Football Federation, Vyacheslav Koloskov, revealed. Coach Romantsev said directly at the beginning of the post-match press conference: “Please don’t ask too many questions. I am breaking down. Fate is not next to the Russians. How can a goalkeeper not catch that ball? Right now Hey, I want to quit football forever.”
Answer the question of why you chose Filimonov to take the lead. “Unfortunately, he performed better on the training ground than Nigmatullin,” said Romantsev.
The Russian press said that the goalkeeper of the Russian team cried non-stop in the dressing room. But none of his teammates blamed Filimonov. Ukraine’s coach Szabo surprised everyone by emphasizing: “It’s a pity for Russia. But it’s too bad that Ukraine can’t win tickets after being at the top for a long time. This is an extremely difficult group.”
The Ukrainian press blew up after the draw in Moscow. The Den newspaper wrote: “Justice was served when Ukraine prevented Russia from participating in Euro 2000” . Then the newspaper talked about the injustices when Russia was entitled to all the legacy of the Soviet Union, while Ukraine was only allowed to participate in Euro 1992 under the name of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and did not even have a flag or anthem. “We’ve won now, on the pitch, not in the FIFA office!” , this sheet emphasizes.
The Russian newspaper did not regret the sarcasm of Ukraine. “This is the second gift for them, after Crimea . ” Moskovskiye Vedomosti newspaper called goalkeeper Filimonov a “goal killer” and emphasized: “The only consolation right now will be Ukraine’s defeat in the play-offs. Let them both die together, like eternal rivals. eternal”.
The Russians have it. Ukraine wants to avoid England and dreams of meeting Slovenia in the play-offs. Lucky God replied. But everything turned into a nightmare when Ukraine lost to this much weaker opponent 1-2 in the first leg. Goalkeeper Shovkovskiy made a forgettable mistake when passing the ball into the opponent’s foot.
4 days later, the draw of Slovenia 1-1 in Kyiv officially made Ukraine’s Euro dream buried. France was the only team in the group to qualify for the Euros, and went all the way to the championship.
Coach Romantsev helped Russia win tickets to the 2002 World Cup but never got over the obsession of the match in Moscow.
The Luzhniki Stadium was destroyed a few years later and rebuilt. The career of poor goalkeeper Filimonov seemed to be ruined, but this keeper showed an unbelievable spirit when he overcame obsession to join Spartak to win the national championship. Even then, Filimonov was brave enough to switch to Dynamo Kyiv.
Later, Filimonov switched to playing beach football and won the World Cup with Russia. This goalkeeper stuck with football until the age of 40, longer than any player in the Russian team that day.