Team relied on class, not effort: Russian sports minister

Moscow: Sports minister Vitaly Mutko said Saturday that Russia relied too much on their natural class without putting in the required effort to qualify for the Euro 2012 football knockout stages.

Expectations were high Russia would repeat their semi-final finish in the Euro 2008 in Poland and Ukraine, approaching the tournament on a 14-game unbeaten run, including a 3-0 trouncing of Italy, and starting with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic.

But a 1-1 draw with co-hosts Poland and then a shock 0-1 defeat to Greece sent the Russians home when the Czechs beat Poland, setting off a protracted blame game in the football community.

"The team potential is much higher than their result," Mutko said in comments on a television channel. "It was shown by the games against the Italians and the Czechs."

"There was hope that we would make it through due to the class, but we didn`t."

Outgoing coach Dick Advocaat took much of the blame for his light training sessions, while many others pointed to the rigours of an 18-month season as the country transfers to a European calendar.

"Firstly, the guys were affected by the championship`s changing from the spring-to-autumn system, they were tired after the lengthy season," Mutko said.

"Secondly, the coaching team did not manage to prepare the players."

With Advocaat heading back to PSV Eindhoven, speculation has mounted as to who might succeed the Dutchman.

Luciano Spalletti, the coach of champions Zenit St. Petersburg, has been linked with the post, as well as the president of newly promoted Alania Vladikavkaz, Valery Gazzaev, who coached the team a decade ago.