SOCHI: Russia’s most-capped player Sergei Ignashevich announced his retirement from soccer on Sunday after the hosts were eliminated by Croatia on penalties in the World Cup quarter-final hours earlier.
The 38-year-old defender, who spent his entire club career at Russian clubs, was a key member of Russia’s run to the last eight at their home tournament, having played in each of their five matches.
He earned a total of 127 caps, scoring nine goals, and holding the record for most international appearances by any Russian. Ignashevich also captained CSKA Moscow to the 2005 UEFA Cup title as well as six Russian titles, five with CSKA and one with Lokomotiv Moscow.
He spent almost two years out of international football following Russia’s group stage exit from the 2016 European Championship but made a surprise return to the national squad in May.
“This was my last World Cup, my last tournament and the last match of my football career. If it wasn’t for the World Cup, I think I would have ended [my career] earlier,” Ignashevich said. “The World Cup was a strong motivation of me. I feel joy, a feeling of peace because I am ending on a high note. I am playing at the World Cup. I am playing in the quarter-finals. I played in a great team with a great coach, a real coach and with players who give themselves fully.”
Ignashevich was one of the successful penalty-takers in their 4-3 shootout defeat against Croatia and was also on target from the spot when they beat Spain again on penalties in the second round.
He added that he would have retired as professional footballer earlier if not for the World Cup and now plans to become a coach. “Anything can happen is in football. But here no one was dissatisfied, not in the dressing room and not on the pitch. I plan to receive a coaching license in December. I would like to become a good coach.”
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018