Friday, October 9, 2009

Russia Seeks Historic Victory vs. Germany

Russia and Germany. You think they would have a long soccer history.

They don't. Something about a couple of world wars, a revolution, etc. They didn't play between 1912 and 1955. Even since then, despite being fairly close, geographically, they have met only sporadically.

Still, there is some history here ... and the bottom line is this:

Russia never has defeated Germany (or West Germany) in an "official" match. "Official" being World Cup, European Cup or Olympic.

Which is germane to this moment, because Germany plays Russia in Moscow on Saturday with the lead in Europe Group 4 at stake. The winner almost certainly will finish first in the group and gain entry to South Africa 2010. The loser will fall into one of the four second-place playoffs -- with a berth at stake for the survivors.

This preview doesn't mention Russia's unfortunate soccer history vs. Germany, but in other material we had seen references to German dominance.

So we looked it up. The results:

Germany: Four victories, one tie, zero defeats. This is from a very handy English language history of every Russia international match. Going back to 1912.

That 4-0-1 German record includes a 1966 World Cup match (2-1), a 1972 Euro Cup meeting (3-0), a 1992 Euro Cup match (1-1), a 1996 Euro Cup match (3-0) and a Germany victory last year in this round of qualifying (2-1).

Germany has pretty much dominated the series, even when we include friendlies (but not matches between the Soviets and East Germany or the "United" German team at the 1956 Olympics).

In those other matches, Germany or West Germany is 13-2-3 vs. Russia.

Russia's last victory over Germany or West Germany? A friendly in 1956, 2-1.

So, Russia will be looking to make history -- as well as all but lock up its World Cup berth.

(And, yes, let's discuss the relevance of a tie, though we will deal with it in paranthetical matter. Ties are boring, but they often are strategically significant, and a tie ... clearly benefits Germany significantly. A tie with Russia, Germany remains a point ahead of Russia and then needs only to win, at home, against Finland, to be sure of finishing first. Finland is a competent side but will be playing for nothing, besides messing with the Germans, which I don't believe is a major issue in Finland at the moment. While Russia goes down to Azerbaijan for an almost certain victory. So Germany may just settle for 0-0, if it's that way in the second half, and hope it can defeat the Finns, which it probably can ... But back to thinking someone will win!)

This game also matches teams ranked Nos. 4 (Germany) and 6 (Russia) in the FIFA world rankings. Meaning it is rivaled only by last month's Brazil-Argentina match (pitting No. 1 vs. No. 8) for the highest-ranked teams meeting in the qualifying rounds.

Lots going on, in this one.

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