16. Egor Krimets (New Entry)
Beijing Guoan (CHN) / Uzbekistan / Central Defence
Words by Tom Danicek
Where would Uzbekistan be without a solid defence, marshalled by the towering figure of Egor Krimets? It’s really hard to say. But they‘d hardly be genuinely fighting for a World Cup spot, that’s for sure. The White Wolves have won four qualifiers by the tightest 1:0 result and the Beijing-based stopper was there for all bar one (the victory over Syria), buttressing a 2:0 win vs “his” China on top.
At club level, Egor Krimets has also stepped up. His first Beijing stint wasn’t a successful one by any stretch of the imagination, as it led to the defender’s wife insulting manager Stanojević on Instagram. But to be fair, Krimets’ performances left a lot to be desired by Beijing Guoan fans, too, so it simply wasn’t a happy marriage from all perspectives. In 2016, though, Egor Krimets returned as a changed man and an improved player who was able to nail down a starting spot quickly and hold onto it.
That said, some Uzbekistan fans won’t rate him too high still. While there’s no doubt Krimets is usually a beast in the air, routinely dealing with most kinds of crosses, the tall centre back (6 ft 4 in) continues to have troubles with quick, intelligent players. He was partially at fault of one South Korean goal in November and I’ve been reminded that his sometimes dumb actions lead to no less dumb yellow cards.
Either way, while he isn‘t as talented as the highly thought of right back Islom Tukhtakhodjaev, and while he may not be poised to unseat Andrei Fyodorov as arguably the greatest Uzbekistan centre back of all-time, there’s no denying of Egor Krimets being an instrumental cog in a defensively much improved Babayan national team. A side that suddenly doesn’t seem to have attributes of the so-called “chokers”.
Highlight of the Year – Being part of the second-best defence in China
Beijing Guoan actually did have the second-best defensive record in Chinese Super League the year before Egor Krimets arrived for the second time, too, but they also didn’t have the fifth-worst attack in the 16-team division at the same time (they had fourth-best instead, scoring 12 more goals). So in 2016, there was a much bigger need to be solid at the back in order to get favourable results. And Krimets indeed contributed to just that, as Beijing Guoan retained their fifth place.
And there were some notable hallmarks along the way: for example, Beijing Guoan managed to shut down Guangzhou Evergrande in front of their home crowd (as they did in 2015 and 2014, by the way), being only one of the three domestic visitors to do that last year. Besides, they have collected 10 clean sheets with Krimets starting, including one vs a higher-placed Shanghai Shenhua away from home.