In a World Cup where defending has seemingly been interpreted as optional, Ilya Kutepov’s impenetrable display against Spain was a joy to behold.
The 24-year-old Spartak Moscow defender blocked, tackled and cleared everything in his path as the host nation Russia produced arguably the biggest shock so far at their own World Cup – knocking out Spain on penalties.
Over 120 minutes of backs against the wall, rearguard resilience, Spain managed to score just once past Igor Akinfeev, and that was an own goal from Sergej Ignashevich. While Kutepov was far from the only Russian player to raise his game against La Roja, he was perhaps the unsung star of the show.
The Hammers had the worst defensive record in the Premier League last season, conceding 68 times despite the pragmatic approach adopted by David Moyes. Too often, West Ham capitulated and appeared to simply give up and accept their fate.
So the dogged, combative Kutepov could be exactly the sort of signing who would add some much needed spirit to their back line.