Russia goalkeeper Akinfeev ends 15-year national team duty
MOSCOW (AP) — Igor Akinfeev, whose penalty shootout saves helped host Russia eliminate Spain from the World Cup, has retired from the national team.
The 32-year-old Akinfeev said on Monday it was a “logical conclusion” after 111 appearances over 15 years. He made his debut within weeks of his 18th birthday.
Akinfeev said he wants to concentrate on playing for CSKA Moscow, which hosts Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“Fifteen years in the national team is a huge period. With each year it gets more difficult to play on two fronts and withstand extremely high loads,” he said.
“Taking into account the injuries I’ve had, more and more time is needed for recovery. And now I’ve reached the clear realization that the time has come to make way for younger colleagues.”
As Russia captain, Akinfeev helped the team exceed all expectations at this year’s World Cup. His two penalty saves lifted Russia to a 4-3 shootout win over Spain in the round of 16 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Akinfeev’s last national team appearance was a shootout loss to Croatia in the quarterfinals. He also helped Russia reach the semifinals at the 2008 European Championship, the closest the team has come to a major trophy since the Soviet era.
In 2015, he was hospitalized after being hit in the head with a flare during crowd disturbances as Russia played Montenegro away.
Russia doesn’t have a clear successor to Akinfeev. Of the three goalkeepers in the squad announced on Monday for upcoming Nations League games, Zenit St. Petersburg’s Andrei Lunyov has five international appearances, while Anton Shunin and the Brazilian-born Guilherme have two each.
Akinfeev is the fourth Russia player to retire from the team after the World Cup, following defender Sergei Ignashevich and midfielders Yuri Zhirkov and Alexander Samedov.