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Leonid Bershidsky

Russians Love Being Victorious Underdogs

Why the anti-Putin opposition loves the national soccer team, too.

All together now.

All together now.

Photographer: Hilmi Sever/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who came out of detention on the day the soccer World Cup began in Russia, has devoted much of his time lately to organizing protests against a retirement age increase timed to coincide with the World Cup. On Sunday, though, most of Navalny’s Twitter feed was dedicated to Russia’s round of 16 game against Spain.

“I’m so nervous I’ve eaten two bags of chips already. Going to grab a third,” he tweeted during the match. “How beautiful this is,” he posted after it was over. Spain’s hopes were dashed and Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev was feted as a hero after deflecting two Spanish penalty shots.