The winner’s path: twenty against one!
The size 5 football balls have been clearly heard in the Saint Petersburg Sports and Concert complex for almost two weeks in January. This Saturday witnessed the last of the 48 matches of the XXIX Granatkin Memorial that gathered 16 teams in its 2017 edition. The organizers divided all teams into 4 groups to ease the scheme and to make the tournament rhythm faster. Two best teams from each group reached quarter-finals hoping to take medal places eventually, whereas the rest had to play for the places from 9th to 16th.
A comeback draw
The match for the third place on the 2017 Granatkin Memorial was dramatic as six goals were scored – 4:2, team Saint Petersburg won. It seems that such an effectiveness of teams would be hard to beat, but… This opinion is wrong. Teams of veterans from Saint Petersburg and Russia amazed spectators by scoring eight goals, and all of them were put into the net of the “southern” goals of the Saint Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex. Four goals were scored by the so-called guests – Team Russia – during the first half, and in the second part of the 50-minute match (the match consisted of 2 halves of 25 minutes each) Team Saint Petersburg answered doing the same.
Dmitry SHNEIDER, the Granatkin Memorial Tournament Director:
“Our tournament became more rhythmic”
A year ago during the interview for the official Granatkin Memorial website its Tournament Director Dmitry Shneider half-jokingly, half-seriously complained about a huge amount of burning issues associated with participation of fourteen respectable football delegations from all parts of the world, that did not allow him to watch the matches. But in this year’s Memorial, there are sixteen national teams instead of fourteen! So the first question was obvious:
January, 21: schedule and results
11:00 #45 Match for the positions: 7-8 Slovenia – Bulgaria 3:0
13:15 #46 Match for the positions: 5-6 Latvia – Slovakia 0:2
15:30 #47 Match for the positions: 3-4 Greece – Saint Petersburg 2:4
“Kolpino rocket” is flying from Moscow!
The friendly match between the veteran teams of Saint Petersburg and Russia traditionally held on the last day of the Granatkin Memorial always attracts big interest among the spectators who want to find out “What’s the current level of our former idols?”. This year it has additional “flavor”. First time in the history of such matches there will be Alexander Panov playing – the indisputable icon of the Saint Petersburg fans of late 1990s and early 2000s, the ex-striker of FC Zenit and the author of two memorable goals in the Russian Cup 1999 final match and the “Kolpino rocket” nickname bearer.
January, 20: schedule and results
12:00 #41 Match for the positions: 15-16 Tajikistan – India 1:0
14:15 #42 Match for the positions: 13-14 Lithuania – Iran 3:1
16:30 #43 Match for the positions: 11-12 Moldova – Estonia 1:0
19:00 #44 Match for the positions: 9-10 Belarus – Azerbaijan 1:1 (pen.-4:5)
“Dvoechka Leva” or how to get to the Eurocups from the First League
The coach that has the most exotic football biography on this tournament (not counting the German Nikolai Adam, who took part in the tournament with team Azerbaijan and who’s heading India this year) is, perhaps, Vitalii Levchenko. In his native Tajik Leninabad (now Khujand, a city where the famous Khodzha Nasreddin’s house was located) Vitalii made his way up to the local masters’ team – Khodjent (now Khujand) – and played for it in the USSR Championship.
After that a promising young player Levchenko (who was 18 years old) left Tajikistan to join the well-known FC Dinamo Kiev. Then he successfully played in the Ukranian, the Russian and the Chinese Championships for years. Having finished his playing career as a right defender at 32 years old, he started to work as a coach. Now, 12 years after, he brought the Youth team of Tajikistan to participate in the Saint Petersburg tournament.
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.
January, 18: schedule and results
12:00 #37 Match for the positions: 5-8 Latvia - Slovenia 2:1
14:15 #38 Match for the positions: 5-8 Bulgaria - Slovakia 1:3
16:30 #39 Semi-final Greece - Kazakhstan 1:2
19:00 #40 Semi-final Russia - Saint Petersburg 4:1
A team of Head coaches? A decent team!
Ioannis Gkoumas is the European champion 2004 - the distinguished coach in the tournament
It’s usual to put together symbolic teams on prestigious football tournaments among young or adult players. The current Granatkin Memorial is in its most interesting play-offs stage now, and the best players will certainly be selected on the last day – Saturday, January the 21st. We’d like to choose other original path and compose a nominal symbolic team consisting of… the head coaches of the participating teams. Many coaches were very strong players (in their quite recent times) and played for their national teams. Ioannis Gkoumas, the head coach of the U-18 team Greece, even managed to become the European champion in 2004! We still remember that sensational Greek team on the continental Championship in Portugal that defeated the hosts in the final match thanks to a goal by Angelos Charisteas. Gkoumas, a long-time central defender of the famous FC Panathinaikos from Athens, was in the squad of that glorious team.
January, 17: schedule and results
12:00 #33 Match for the positions: 13-16 Tajikistan – Lithuania 0:0 (pen.-4:5)
14:15 #34 Match for the positions: 13-16 India – Iran 0:1
16:30 #35 Match for the positions: 9-12 Belarus – Moldova 4:0
19:00 #36 Match for the positions: 9-12 Estonia – Azerbaijan 0:3
There will be a new winner!
It’s now definite that Slovenia, the current Granatkin Memorial cup holder, won’t repeat their last year success. The currently ongoing tournament witnessed a big surprise (if not a sensation) Monday, January 16th. The surprise turned out to be very pleasant for Kazakhstan and for all their fans who keep on quantitatively enlarging the support on the stands of the Peterburgsky SCC from match to match. Despite attractive and very intense football played by the team of Aleksander Kuznetsov, the likely team to win the third quarter-final match was Slovenia, brought here by the last year’s triumphant Igor Benedejčič. The last group match his players found their play and got a convincing 3:0 win against quite strong Saint Petersburg.
“My son looked at all my injuries and left the goals to be a midfielder”
The best Estonian goalkeeper of the second half of the 21st century is the most famous foreign guest at the Granatkin Memorial this year. As a goalkeeper he spent 14 seasons in the English football playing for Derby County FC, Sunderland AFC, Portsmouth FC and even for the London’s Arsenal. Also he was playing for the National team of Estonia for 16 years. Poom is recognized for being the best player of the year in his native country for 6 times. He was named Estonia's Golden Player in 2003 and now he is coaching goalkeepers for the National team of Estonia.
The first play-off matches of the XXIX International youth football tournament in memory of the first FIFA Vice-President Valentin Granatkin ended in an extraordinary way. The National teams that did not make it to the quarter-finals are now battling for places from 9 to 16. This weekend (January 14-15) the teams that finished on the 3rd and the 4th places in respective groups played cross-sectional matches in the following scheme: 3А – 4В, 3В – 4А, 3С – 4D и 4С – 3D.
Anatoli Davydov, the USSR Champion and the Russian Cup holder
“Players from Krasnodar could have been starring on this Granatkin Memorial”
Traditionally a large group of specialists from St. Petersburg and other cities of Russia are watching the matches of the Granatkin Memorial – the coaches of professional teams, the head coaches of the youth teams, scouts and agents. The most famous expert among St. Petersburg coaches and scouts who are watching games in the Peterburgsky SCC on a daily basis is, for sure, Anatoly Davydov – the Leningrad-St. Petersburg football all-time record holder on the number of matches played for FC Zenit (456!). As a player Davydov became the USSR Champion in 1984. And in 1999, fifteen years later, he won the Russian Cup with FC Zenit as a coach.
January, 15: schedule and results
12:00 #27 Match for the positions: 9-16 Lithuania – Moldova 2:2 (pen.-3:4)
14:15 #28 Match for the positions: 9-16 Iran – Azerbaijan 0:1
16:30 #29 Quaterfinal Greece – Latvia 0:0 (pen.-8:7)
19:00 #30 Quaterfinal Russia – Bulgaria 3:0
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“Dry” victories after “Juicy” play
All the quarter-final pairs of the XXIX Granatkin Memorial were formed in the evening of Friday the 13th (what a match!). Greece and Latvia, Russia and Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Slovenia, St. Petersburg and Slovakia will be fighting against each other for the right to play in semi-finals of the prestigious international youth football tournament this coming Sunday and Monday.
Andres OPER: “They quickly explained me in Moscow what my last name meant in Russian!”
March 27, 2002. Estonia 2:1 Russia (goals: Oper, 11; 87 – Beschastnykh, 18). Arguably it might have been the worst defeat of the Russian team over the time it was headed by Oleg Romantsev. This is even more remarkable, given the fact that there were Smertin, Mostovoi, Karpin, Titov and Izmailov playing for the team in midfield and Sychev and Beschastnykh starting the match in offense! These stars managed to lose the game against “a small, but proud” Estonia that had Andres Oper, the then young striker, shining in the attacking line in his native Tallinn. Such a notable in the Russian language last name was used in almost all the newspaper headlines dedicated to that football match.
Good evening, brothers! Let us play on “Nedelya”!
Since Greece overplayed Bulgaria on the tournament with a smashing 4:0 score on Thursday, it became clear who will play in the first quarter-final of the 29th Granatkin Memorial. This Sunday will be marked by a match between 17-year-old players from Russia and Bulgaria, which will take place on the artificial emerald ground in Saint Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex at 19.00.
So, we’ll use a cross-national phrase “Let us play on “Nedelya” to greet our opponents. A “nedelya” is a Slavic word that sounds the same in Russian and Bulgarian, but means “a week” to Russians and “Sunday” to Bulgarians, whose national team made it to the quarter-final in a very interesting way.