Two rysskamps — friendly matches between the first national teams of Sweden and Russia — that have been played previous weekend in Western Sweden have issued a lot of interesting information about the current routine in two most advanced today teams of the bandy world which are just in few weeks going to fight for a title of the world champions.
The russian team who is the world champions arrived to Sweden being completed with a staff that is determined as experimental. Russians by various reasons left 9 players at home who won the World championship’s final in Vänersborg 10 months ago. Their positions have been replaced by those slightly forgotten players who were already called to the national team earlier as well as by two newcomers. A challenge to the first team for some of them is already one of the major peaks in their sport careers regardless of whether they would be drafted in a squad to Irkutsk or not. In any case each of them has been given a chance and russians were obviously ready to compete for a place at their team.
This fact perhaps has hammered its mark on a pattern of play of the russian team in the first control match at outdoor Arena Heden in the heart of Göteborg. All they were eager to show themselves in all their best that often has had another effect they were expected of the coaches. Individual actions and poor understanding harmed collective play which is clearly what the rysskij hockey is based on. In addition the russian coaches poured some oil on the flames while endlessly shuffling a deck of players and placing them on new positions they never played before.
It has become clear already in the first half of the game in Göteborg that russians came to Sweden with another purpose than to show up their appearance. Their major task was to probe the abilities of renewed swedish team as well as explore tactical setups of the new swedish headquarters. Therefore rysskij hockey performed by the russian team that day has been obtained occasionally, only 6 or 8 times for the game, but it was each time so spectacular that awareness of a mortal threat of russians counter-attacks has occured only after completion of each such a lightning-type attack where in average every second hit the target.
But classic swedish bandy however proved to be more in the first game which pre-determined the final score 7:3 (3:2). The hosts groped from the very beginning about painful points of the russian experimental team and they stubbornly pressed on them over and over again with what they are traditionally strong are middle and long distance ball casts. Undisguised failures of a defence line, uncertain performance of a goalkeeper, abuse with an individual play and a weak game discipline at the russian team were those trump cards that russians have withdrawn out of a deck and dealt to swedes. The Red machine could cover their fatal errors only with collective counter-attacks but they did not produce it sufficient to compensate such a painful score difference.
Despite a joyful mood visited swedes this beautiful Saturday evening Advent an outcome of the first game did not turn the hosts on too rosy optimism. Russians showed they are capable under certain conditions of internal mobilization not only to compete on equal with Tre kronor but also have advantages even with their experimental line-up. Russians needed only to prove it in their second control game next day at indoor arena in Vänersborg.
Russian headquarters have introduced significant adjustments to the second match admitted to the game those who by their conditions correspond level of the world champions and placed them on their usual positions. The second control rysskamp revealed that tactical arsenal of russians is much richer than a day before. The swedish team was suddenly overtaken by russian surprise that immediately exposed the lack of available resources despite all the efforts. Russians just for one night introduced appropriate organizational adjustments and rebuilt their play so to beat them on Sunday too was not only a matter of effort, the skills were required.
But what up to their skills swedes had problems, especially in a mid line. The hosts were clearly lack of experienced Mossberg, Esplund, Erixon and Hans Andersson in addition to Daniel Berlin. Hence is the result 4:6 (1:2). The second game showed this is unlikely for swedes to replace their main creative force what above mentioned quartet had been in recent years. Swedish defence also did not show its actual worth and has been swept off by the Red russian machine. From this point return of Andreas Bergwall to the national team proved to look somehow blurred but if he does not the score could have been even more frustrating for swedes.
As a result we have two very different but very spectacular and productive for information to the thoughts rysskamps. Russians have taken from Sweden psychological confidence in their superiority over archrival and justified expectations to be the sole favorites in Irkutsk in one and a half month. Swedish headquarters have to start up all over again pursuing russians in a search of new tactical options and, the most important, performers of an appropriate level since the outlooks for today’s swedish team at the World championship in Irkutsk are far beyond over only Siberian frosts.