Published: Wednesday, 18 January 2017 14:12

The Balts take a football revenge!

It cannot be said that three youth football teams from the Baltic countries performed successfully during this year’s XXIX Granatkin Memorial. Even Latvia that showed the most stable play among these three can only become the fifth in the final rankings if the last match’s scenario turns lucky for them. Teams from Lithuania and Estonia did not make it to the quarter-finals that moved them to the second part of the final standings.

The coaches who go through rises and falls with their teams had another chance to sweeten up the taste of the tournament. And this time everything was in their hands. Most of the coaches sadly concluded during press-conferences that their forwards do not convert chances to score sometimes, and it makes them want to go onto the field themselves to show their skills. So the Organizing Committee of Granatkin Memorial gave them an opportunity to do this: this Tuesday after the last match between Azerbaijan and Estonia, a traditional coaches’ tournament took place in Saint Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex.

Four head coaches submitted their applications for this friendly tournament: Vytautas Vaškūnas (team Lithuania), Lars Hopp (team Estonia), Vitalii Levchenko (team Tajikistan) and Nikolai Adam (India). Please, note that two of these coaches lead National teams from the Baltic countries, whereas two others represent teams that did not make it to the first 8 in the final rankings. So there was something to prove for the coaches! The same playing ambitions were carried by other participants of the tournament who represent nearly all coaches’ staffs of the 16 national teams – only the Greeks, the Slovaks, the Slovenians and the Bulgarians decided to keep their powers… The Organizing Committee was represented by Dmitrii Shneider, the Tournament Director, his Deputy Igor Kiselev and the Technical Director Arthur Dolgopolov.

All participants (approximately 40 people) were divided into four teams in shirts of different colors. The Greens were given to Indians and Iranians, the Yellows – to representatives of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, the Blues were taken by the Balts, and the Reds were parceled out to the Russian, Saint Petersburg, Belarus and Moldova players, who were joined by three “jokers” of the Organizing Committee.

It was clear right on the warm-up that there will be no gentle ball-rolling with classical draws. Just after the first seconds of the two parallel semi-finals (that took place on the pitch halves) serious rivalries showed that no one wanted to surrender any inch of the artificial football ground. A famous Joel Lindpere, a midfielder from Tallinn, performed in the same manner he had played in recent matches for the National team of Estonia – this player had not any mercy on him or his opponents. There were so many tough collisions on the pitch, that Sergei Pasikan, who was refereeing the semi-final “The Reds” against “The Greens”, did not notice the fact that teams consisted of 9 players instead of 8 which was agreed previously.

This small disregard of a rule helped “The Reds” because a group of forwards consisting of the team Russia Manager Eduard Shubin and the Tournament Director Dmitrii Shneider was very challenging to beat. The director was making assists and the manager was scoring goals. It was that “duo” which brought “The Reds” into the final – 2:1 as the Head Coach of team India, the German expert Nicolai Adam (who played aggressively on the attacking end) did not use his chances…

As for the other semi-final between “The Blues” and “The Yellows”, the tactical surprise prepared by the Baltic team worked out well. Vytautas Vaškūnas who was always playing the defender in his career switched to attacks, leaving the place in the middle of defense to Lars Hopp. It was Vaškūnas who scored the first (and beautiful!) goal for his team, sending air-kisses to his applauding supporters right after that. “The Blues” were inspired a lot and soon scored the second goal, winning 2:0 against “The Yellows”.

“The Yellows” and “The Greens” had nothing to lose in the match for the third place, so they both put their bets on attacks and no defense. In an exchange of goal attempts, “The Yellows” turned out to be luckier, as the first 12-minute half ended 3:1 in their favor. The final score was 5:2 “The Yellows”.

The crucial match, as the final should be, was a tough struggle for a victory. Just before the half-time “The Blues” got “The Reds” (led by Dmitrii Korelov, the Head of Saint Petersburg Delegation) to relax by their cautious play, but then they intensified the pace. And then (with some assistance from their “secret striker” Vaškūnas) they scored twice in one minute, changing their playing style to more defensive in the second half. “The Reds” were not giving up right till the final whistle, and the same Shneider forced one of the opponent’s defenders make an own goal. But still “The Blues” celebrated the victory in this match and also in the tournament – 2:1.

Congratulations to all the winners – the coaches and the officials of the Youth teams of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia! The Baltic countries took a certain revenge on the XXIX Granatkin Memorial. Also congratulations to Vytautas Vaškūnas, as the Organizing Committee named him the Best Player on the Coaches tournament.




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