Capello backs contrite Russian keeper Akinfeev

AFP| Updated: Jun 18, 2014, 16:51 PM IST

Brasilia: Fabio Capello threw his support behind Igor Akinfeev after the goalkeeper`s self-confessed "kids" error very nearly spiked his 68th birthday celebrations and Russia`s return to the World Cup after a 12-year absence.

Capello watched on aghast as Akinfeev`s fumbling let in Lee Keun-Ho`s 30 metre shot to gift South Korea the lead in the Group H clash in Cuiaba.

Akinfeev`s blushes were spared when Alexander Kerzhakov levelled three minutes after coming on to salvage a 1-1 draw against the 2002 semi-finalists.

Despite the near catastrophic start Capello was in benevolent mood towards the CSKA stopper after a result that left both countries trailing Belgium who head Group H after their 2-1 win over Algeria.

"Just like some players can miss penalties it can happen that a keeper makes a mistake as well," the Italian said.

"You can accept a mistake from a great keeper like Akinfeev. Today it turned out fine as we were able to make up the difference. I`m very happy with Akinfeev."

The keeper himself cut a contrite figure after the final whistle at the Arena Pantanal.

"It was a kid`s mistake and I bare full responsibility," he admitted.

"I can`t say that it was because of worry.

"Maybe I wasn`t sure in myself, I don`t know. The guys supported me. I say thanks. The goalkeeper of the national team shouldn`t make mistakes like this one."

After a cautious start Korea`s goal awoke Capello`s Russian bear, which had virtually lain dormant throughout the first half.

"My players showed a wonderful reaction after we conceded the goal," said the man in charge of England at the last World Cup.

"We were so nervous at the start, the players weren`t as smooth as normal," he added.

"But it was visible after the Korean goal that we sprung right back and played like we know how to."

He said he`d thanked his side for their reaction.

"It was the greatest birthday gift I could receive, this means the team is willing, capable and can do it."

While Russia now face Belgium, the Koreans` next attempt to qualify for the knockout stages is against the Algerians in Porte Alegre on Sunday.

Coach Hong Myung-Bo, who attained iconic status in Seoul after captaining his country to the last four in 2002, had mixed feelings at the outcome.

"We had the game in the bag for a small moment, and then they levelled, so we have to move on now and concentrate on our next game.

"I`m very satisfied with the performance of my players, tactically and physically they gave their utmost.

Man-of-the-match Son Heung-Min described his World cup debut as "a dream".

"I really wanted to show something in this game," added the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder who fulfilled a more attacking role than he does normally for his club.

"We had a good match today, it will help our confidence, but we can be better than this."