Konstantin Zyrianov is one of the most mature players in Russia’s Euro 2012 squad, with his experience making him believe the national team is good enough to reach the tournament's final in Kiev.
Full name: Konstantin Georgievich Zyrianov
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
Caps for Russia: 47
Goals for Russia: 7
Konstantin Zyrianov’s route to his country’s national team was long and hard as he made his Russian debut only at the age of 28.
Born in the Siberian city of Perm, he played for the local side, Amkar, in the lower leagues for six seasons.
It seemed his luck had turned when in 2000 he moved to Torpedo Moscow in the top flight and won bronze medal in his first season with the new club.
But it was in the Russian capital where Konstantin suffered an absolutely terrible personal tragedy.
His wife got addicted to drugs and on August 2, 2002, she jumped out of an eighth-floor window, holding their four-year-old daughter Irina in her hands.
Two lives were lost in the fall. It’s impossible to imagine what Zyrianov went through, but football was surely one of the things which helped him move on.
The 34-year-old is now married again and has two kids – a boy and a girl – with his wife Natalya.
Zyrianov was the key player in Torpedo’s midfield, mainly executing defensive functions to give a free hand to the team’s leader, Igor Semshov.
And when he a scored himself – especially after an impressive solo run – it was usually considered a huge surprise.
In 2006, a lack of finance saw Torpedo relegated and, like all the club’s best footballers, Zyrianov started looking for a new job.
And he found one in Saint Petersburg, which saw his career skyrocketing. Zenit’s coach, Dick Advocaat, was quick to understand that Zyrianov is capable of much more than just playing at the back.
He moved his midfielder closer to the opposition goal and asked him to be creative, which the player gladly did.
Zyrianov not only led Zenit to the title, but was also honoured as Russia’s footballer of the year in 2007.
A year later, he won the UEFA Cup, starting in the 4-0 thrashing of Bayern Munich in the semis and netting one of the goals in the final against Rangers.
The ability to score and assist, in combination with his defensive skills, made him a regular in the Russian team as well.
And Euro 2008 became his moment of glory, with the midfielder being named in UEFA’s team of the tournament.
“Back then no one expected that we’d progress from the group with the Spaniards, Swedes and Greeks,” Zyrianov told Bobsoccer.ru. “Then no one believed that we could beat the Dutch in the quarter-finals. Then we wanted to reach the decider, but the Spaniards brought us back down to earth. And now we go to Euro 2012, knowing that we can achieve something serious.”
The player suggests that even making the final in Kiev isn’t at all impossible for him and his teammates.
“Why not? This team is a lot more experienced. The people who were in Maribor [where Russia lost their World Cup 2010 play-off to Slovenia], can’t be scared of anything,” he added.
Zyrianov made nine appearances in Russia’s qualifying campaign for Poland and Ukraine. And his proficiency will, of course, be of use for the national team at Euro 2012.
He won't be playing 90 minutes in every match, but the veteran surely isn’t going to waste even a second of the time he spends on the pitch.
Dmitry Gorshkov, RT
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