Russia's New Goal

Michal Cizek - AFP/Getty

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The Russians lost their first game against Spain at Euro 2008

In their drive to restore Russia's Soviet-era muscle, Vladimir Putin and his allies have plenty to build on: fabulous petroleum wealth, ironclad political stability and an increasingly confident foreign policy. Will national pride get an extra boost from the country's footballers? Can they join the phalanx of Russian hockey and tennis stars who are earning the nation some international respect?

It didn't look like it after Russia's first game at Euro 2008, when they were thrashed 4-1 by Spain, who immediately joined Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands — all impressive winners in the first round of...

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