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The failure of the Olympic "Euro Tour"

February 26 2006

That came to an end the Olympic hockey tournament, and now in the northern derby team in Finland and Sweden will put the recent emphasis. A team of players from Russia, which "top" is planned at least a bronze medal, after two bleak goalless match in the semifinals and the match for third place part on his club nesolono-handed.

After a quarterfinal match with Canada, our hockey players, who before winning in Turin had to play two hard games, almost raised to the rank of national heroes. Indeed, in a row played with the U.S. and Canada, the Swedes defeated, as at Poltava, from Latvia have made "a dead donkey ears", and tortured victory over Kazakhstan and start defeat by Slovakia seemed pure misunderstanding. On the way to the finals was the team of Finland, which in the good old days ever to beat even with a two-digit score.

And it never occurred to mount fans, the Russian team for the semifinal that Finns have won all their matches, both the Czech Republic and Canada were defeated on all counts. Yes, and a heavy ending with the Americans was caused only relaxation that in a game with us, they themselves will not allow. And many, including professionals, have forgotten that the Finns have at least 20 years are not to be bullied. In those days, when, according to Vladislav Tretiak, the Finns play on "one left" in the national team in Finland were real fans, who coached in the evenings after the first operation.

Since then, Finnish ice hockey took a huge step up. First, Ville-Pekka Ketola, Matti Hagman and Jari Kurri were stars hockey overseas, and then success came to the team, to let these great professionals. In 1988, the Finns won the silver medal at the Olympics in Calgary, and in 1998 in Nagano, when the game was first visited by representatives of the NHL - the bronze medal. In 1995, the Finns have become world champions and silver and a bronze medal at all lost count. Eighteen months ago the Finns have played in the World Cup final, where the battered nerves Canadians. And almost all the recent victories are associated with a remarkable trio winger Teemu Selanne - Saku Koivu - Hyères Lehtinen. They have long been the pride of not only Finland but also the NHL, and his star status is constantly argued in Turin.

Barely begun semifinal, it was clear who better to put a team game. We tried to get through to the Finnish goal alone, but all attempts were futile. The Finns also methodically fought their way to the gate of Eugene Nabokov earned removal, and opened the account. In the second period, they continued to turn the carousel next to our gate, and the first goal of Saku Koivu has organized his defender and then he again used the removal of the Russians. In those moments, when the Finns were four or even three, they were wrong and gave a hundred percent of our attacking chances on goal.

In the third period spectacle was quite pathetic. The Finns continued to methodically terminate all the timid attempts to beat the Russians and themselves at one point, catch us on the counterattack. At the end of the game our neighbors have the numerical advantage, which they turned into the game "in the dog." They should not have been closer to the gate of Nabokov - 4:0 clearly satisfactory. And we only had to wait the match for third place and understand how the Russians have learned the lesson of this team play, which teaches the Finns.

Chances to extract benefit from these lessons have been, because the Czech team in Turin was a pale shadow of itself. Team shattered a real epidemic of injuries that resulted in the defeat by Finland, Canada and Switzerland in the semifinals of Sweden.However, only the match against Switzerland, you can add to the Czechs in full liability: In other matches, they fought until the end, not allowing opponents to relax. A quarterfinal with Slovakia in general has become a model grandmaster games against an opponent who too wants to beat you. Therefore, to beat the Czechs, who injured Jaromir Jagr and frankly "chudili" is replaced by the great goalies Dominik Hasek, was possible. But not on the same ridge.

Those who did not watch the match for third place, at least nothing is lost. From the first minutes it was seen that team play put the Czechs better. Especially clearly manifested in the numerical majority that "brothers-Slavs" was used once in the first and second periods. Our throws dormant little danger because they just stretch the Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vokouna. The apogee of the nightmare became senseless crudeness of Ilya Kovalchuk, frankly tolknuvshego aboard defender Paul Cuban. As a result - delete to end the game with a disqualification. Again, nothing happened with us in the majority - even against three opponents. Finally, a few seconds before the end of Martin Straka summed up the meeting. 3:0 - and the Russian national team, two games in a row not managed to hit the opponent's gate, leaving home without winning.

Analyzing the causes of failure, many immediately think of the fact that our players are playing in the NHL, just forget about patriotism and thinking only about money. But this is by no means all, because a lot of guys and really tried hard and gave all the best in every match, but still not all of them represented the NHL. Perhaps, in North America they firmly stuck in my head the other hand, is not associated with money purely hockey principle - that the world's best teams - it's Canada and the USA. And if we could beat them, then the trick is done and we are - champions.

But it was not so. It turned out that European teams are much better than the vaunted Americans and Canadians, set team game. On top of that, North Americans have little practice game on large European markets, and because the Europeans have had an advantage over them. Even the players from Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland and even play the first violin in the overseas teams. Selanne, Jagr, the Swedes Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin, Pavol Slovak Demitri, the Swiss goalie Martin Gerber ... the list goes on.

During the tournament turned out that the Finns and Swedes, and Czechs better remember how to play combinative European hockey than ours, who prefer not to enter the zone with the help of transmission, and vbrasyvaya puck into the zone. Perhaps, local coaches, who could in Soviet times, a few months to prepare the team to the biggest competition is not very well have learned to work under new conditions, when the game should be put to paper. Of course, the experience from the Swedes, Finns and even former members of the socialist Czechs are much richer than that manifested itself in full.

Finally, the coaches of other teams managed to find a place on the ice even for players who do not shine efficiency. We have the same effectiveness did not shine acknowledged masters. Thus, Ilya Kovalchuk has failed the tournament, scoring all of their four goals Latvians, and in other meetings, "silent". How ignominious outcome of his stay in Turin - delete to end the match and disqualified for openly rude outburst against Czech rival. No matter looked, Maxim Afinogenov, who gained only one point. A real nightmare prevailed in the defense, where lapses allowed the most experienced defenders - although it is probably also a matter of playing with a sheet. Of course, were part of the Russians and the bright spots - our captain Alexei Kovalev, the young forward Alexander Ovechkin and goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Alas, their efforts were not enough.

Before the start of the Olympics, many high-ranking supporters say that, say, a hockey medal in our pocket. But the contenders for the victory still had seven, and this unwarranted optimism may have created a team shapkozakidatelskie mood, for which there were other preconditions. As a result - the Russian team only the second time is left without the Olympic-winning and losing this Eurotrip. In the Olympic semifinals, all participants Euro Tour - Russia and Sweden, and Finland and the Czech Republic played almost optimal composition, and we were ultimately weak. Rivalry in world hockey is very hard, to play in every game, but Russian hockey players, coaches and officials were not ready for this.


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