Russia’s pre-World Cup friendly against Slovakia on May 26 shouldn’t necessarily be a preview of their performance on the world stage. A single late goal sealed the game for the Russians. This team has experience, and plenty of it. They also have the disciplinarian Fabio Capello as their manager. The Russians also have a high-tempo style of play, which, combined with the rest of their assets could see them finish top of the group.
Keep in mind that Russia qualified top of Group F, ahead of Portugal. They weren’t too convincing during the preliminary round, but they still got where they needed to be. Former England manager Fabio Capello’s work is yet to be seen, he had a tough time convincing the British public that England could do well at the World Cup. But as we all know, managing the prima donna’s of England is extremely hard work and a completely different ball game. There’s something about this World Cup 2014 group that is exhilarating. With the likes of South Korea, Belgium and Algeria, all whom share the same high-tempo philosophy, the Russians are definitely going to get a run for their money.
Capello has only called players from the Russian league, he’s also dropped players like former Arsenal star and current Zenit bench-warmer Andrey Arshavin. The majority of this team play in either CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Moscow, or Zenit St. Petersburg. Capello has really improved the structure, possession and discipline of these players.
Russia’s star player is the one with the gloves, Igor Akinfeev who recently broke a national team record after going 12 hours with a clean sheet. He has established himself as Russia’s No.1 and probably will be for some time. The Russian goalkeeper has been tipped for greatness, with talks linking him to the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and AC Milan. For club Igor Akinfeev has been a winner, winning a UEFA Cup for CSKA in 2005 and several league titles.
With the Russians being the favorites to finish top of the group, it is hard to ignore the intensity of Group H. Contrary to popular belief, this group will be exciting to watch and will baffle its viewers. The Russians have a solid chance, and Capello is no stranger to great tournaments. However, everything is temporary and everyone always tends to judge you for your most recent result. This might be Capello’s last World Cup and where the Russians finish will have a reflection on his image as a coach.
Schedule: June 17 vs. South Korea, June 22 vs. Belgium, June 26 vs. Algeria
World Cup History: As Russia… Qualified (1994, 2002), As Soviet Union… Semifinals (1966), Quarterfinals (1958, 1962, 1970), Second Round (1982, 1986)
Rankings: FIFA (18), Elo (15)
Russia’s 23 Man Squad:
1 Igor Akinfeev goalkeeper, CSKA Moscow
2 Aleksei Kozlov defender, Dynamo Moscow
3 Georgi Shchennikov defender, CSKA Moscow
4 Sergei Ignashevich defender, CSKA Moscow
5 Andrei Semyonov defender, Terek Grozny
6 Maksim Kanunnikov forward, Rubin Kazan
7 Igor Denisov midfielder, Dynamo Moscow
8 Denis Glushakov midfielder, Spartak Moscow
9 Aleksandr Kokorin forward, Dynamo Moscow
10 Alan Dzagoev midfielder, CSKA Moscow
11 Aleksandr Kerzhakov forward, Zenit St Petersburg
12 Yuri Lodygin goalkeeper, Zenit St Petersburg
13 Vladimir Granat defender, Dynamo Moscow
14 Vasili Berezutski defender, CSKA Moscow
15 Roman Shirokov (captain) midfielder, Krasnodar
16 Sergey Ryzhikov goalkeeper, Rubin Kazan
17 Oleg Shatov midfielder, Zenit St Petersburg
18 Yuri Zhirkov forward, Dynamo Moscow
19 Aleksandr Samedov forward, Lokomotiv Moscow
20 Viktor Fayzulin midfielder, Zenit St Petersburg
21 Aleksei Ionov forward, Dynamo Moscow
22 Andrey Yeshchenko defender, Anzhi Makhachkala
23 Dmitri Kombarov defender, Spartak Moscow