Rinat Dasayev is widely considered to be the second greatest goalkeeper in Soviet history, after Lev Yashin, but he is possibly best remembered for a goal he conceded in the Euro '88 final against Netherlands; Marco van Basten's stunner which set the seal on a 2-0 win for the Dutch and is considered the best goal ever scored at the European Championship.
Dasayev, 58, will never forget that moment and tells ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that he has high hopes for the current Russian team and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Q. What did you make of Marco van Basten's goal?
A. Van Basten was very lucky with that shot. Give him another hundred opportunities to try it, and he won't hit it again that way. I was very disappointed that day, because we had a good chance of beating the Dutch and winning the trophy. They were fortunate, and we missed a penalty as well. But now, looking back, I can see some positives in that great goal. Marco scored it, I conceded it and we both have our place in history.
Q. Was Euro '88 the greatest moment of your career?
A. Yes, it must have been. It was the most exciting tournament for sure. We were close to winning it and played very good football. Beating England 3-1 on the last matchday of the group stage was extremely important -- it enabled us to finish top of the group. I remember that game well, and England were not in the best shape those days, even though Tony Adams scored with a header. I made a few good saves in the second half.
Q. You also had a good time against English opposition in club football with Spartak Moscow.
A. Of course, those were great games. We played against Arsenal in UEFA Cup in 1982, won 3-2 at home in dramatic fashion, and then came to London and won 5-2 in the return leg. The atmosphere was incredible, and the English fans were surprised, but I think they were stunned even more when we eliminated Aston Villa a year later. We came to Birmingham after drawing 2-2 at home and won 2-1 in the return leg. The English were astonished; Aston Villa were at least as strong as Arsenal in those days.
Q. Should those triumphs make the current Russian national team more hopeful ahead of the game against England on Saturday?
A. For sure, it is possible to win against any opposition. The current England team is probably better than the one we faced in 1988. They are young and have strong performers throughout the lineup. But Russia are capable of playing a tight and even game against them. They should be self-confident and remember that there are no impossible tasks in football.
Q. How would you compare the current Russian team with the Soviet Union team you played for?
A. In my day, the Soviet league was better than the Russian league these days. There were no foreigners, but there were many good local players who aspired to represent the national team. There really was fierce competition for every position in the Soviet squad. This is not the case nowadays, and the national coach has little choice. The level of competition is not the same.
Q. Are you talking about the ageing stars in central defence, Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski, among others? Will they be able to cope with the mobile attackers of England?
A. I think they will. They are not young, but are very experienced and tactically disciplined. The coach should be able to find the way to use them correctly, and they have a good chance of stopping England. They have a good goalkeeper behind them, too.
Q. Can Igor Akinfeev be considered your ultimate heir?
A. Yes, I think so. He is not the first quality Russian goalkeeper to emerge since I retired, but they were not consistent. Igor has been playing at the top level for more than a decade now, and he is a leader. He doesn't show emotions on the pitch like I did, and always looks concentrated and calm, but I am sure he burns inside during matches just like I did. We are constantly in touch and I like him as a person.
Q. One of your trademark moves was throwing the ball quickly back into the play after stopping a shot, often using long throws. Your teammates knew that, and were always open to receive the ball and start counterattacks. Why is that not used in the current team?
A. This really was a very good weapon, because you can easily catch a disorganised opposition out when quickly turning defence into attack. I am certain that it should be used nowadays as well, and would advise Akinfeev to release the ball as quickly as possible. That could help Russia against England, too.