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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazzayev Takes Charge of Russian Soccer Team

Itar-TassValery Gazzayev, center, celebrating CSKA's win in the Russian Cup final in May. He was appointed Russia coach on Monday.
CSKA Moscow head coach Valery Gazzayev was handed the reins of the Russian national team Monday, replacing Oleg Romantsev, who stepped down last month in the wake of Russia's disappointing World Cup campaign.

Gazzayev was appointed national team coach at a meeting of the Russian Football Union, at which Romantsev was expected to hand in his formal resignation but failed to show up. The decision to give Gazzayev the job was unanimously made by the union's 24 members, RFU vice president and State Duma Deputy Valery Draganov was quoted by Interfax as saying.

"I'm really happy with this honor," Gazzayev told reporters after the meeting, adding that his appointment marked the beginning of a new national team.

Gazzayev, who will turn 48 next month, has a solid record at club level, having coached five different teams over the past 10 years, including the championship-winning Alania Vladikavkaz side in 1995. Last year, he did a stint with Russia's under-21 team before joining CSKA and leading it to the Russian Cup in May of this year. He was also the main challenger to Romantsev when the Spartak Moscow coach was given the national team job in 1998.

Romantsev resigned as national coach immediately after Russia's 3-2 defeat against Belgium on June 14, which followed a 1-0 loss to Japan and meant that Russia did not qualify for the second round of the World Cup from what was widely regarded as one of the easiest groups in the tournament.

During his tenure, Romantsev was frequently criticized for relying on old-timers and failing to bring fresh blood into the aging national squad, while Gazzayev is highly rated as a coach who can uncover young talent.

"I can say with conviction that there will be changes [to the squad]," Gazzayev said Monday, although he added that he does not plan to drop experienced players vital to the team.

Gazzayev will combine his duties as coach of the national team with his work at CSKA until January, when he will resign from CSKA to focus on preparing the Russian team for Euro 2004.

Russia's poor performances under Romantsev were often blamed on his inability to combine the national team job with his duties at Spartak, and seven members of the RFU insisted Gazzayev quit his CSKA job to concentrate on the national team.

Gazzayev's appointment ends weeks of discussion about whether a foreign coach should be hired to take over the national team. Proponents of the idea pointed to the example of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who led co-host South Korea to the semifinals of the World Cup, as well as England and Senegal, which reached the quarterfinals under foreign coaches. Days after the national team returned from Japan, two wealthy oil magnates, LUKoil vice president Leonid Fedun and Yukos Moskva president Vasily Shakhnovsky, offered to pay up to $1 million per year to hire a foreign coach for the Russian team.

But few sports officials, soccer experts or ex-players supported the idea of installing a foreigner as head coach.

Leonid Tyagachyov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, was quoted by Interfax as saying that a Russian coach should be given the chance to show his worth and, free of any club duties, create a reliable contract system under which he could pick players for the squad without clubs deciding who to send.