Russia: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan).
Defenders: Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Andrey Eshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Alexey Kozlov (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Terek Grozny), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow).
Midfielders: Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Zhirkov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexey Ionov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Victor Faizulin (Zenit St Petersburg), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Krasnodar).
Forwards: Maxim Kanunnikov (Amkar Perm), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow).
Best Ever Finish: Group Stage (1992, 2004)
Manager: Fabio Capello
Captain: Sergey Ignashevich
Russia topped Portugal in Group F to qualify for the World Cup and have evolved into a team thoroughly resemblant of their manager Fabio Capello. Perhaps the biggest indicator of this is the axing of former Russian captain Andrei Arshavin who as you might expect, doesn’t really compliment Capello’s pragmatic approach to management.
The Italian abandoned the 4-3-3 system Russia have utilized in modern times in favour of a more robust 4-2-3-1 formation. Upto now, it looks to be working well. Alan Dzagoev, Russia’s most talented player at the moment, should play in the ‘No.10’ position which gives him more freedom than any player in the team. He looks set to be ably supported by diligent, willing teammates.
Capello will be looking to better his previous World Cup performance with England in 2010. In South Africa the three lions were down right boring to watch and were given a lesson by a vibrant young Germany outfit in the last-16.
With a glittering CV, the one thing missing from Capello’s resume is a success with an international team. Luckily for Capello, this Russia side should be hungry for exactly that. They looked the business after their first match in Euro 2012, but faltered in their other two group games and ultimately failed to qualify.
They’ll be confident of getting out of a group in which Belgium are the obvious favourites. Beating both Algeria and South Korea is certainly not beyond them, though.
Key Player – Alan Dzagoev
Having regularly played wide on the right-hand-side for the national team, Dzagoev has been deployed in a central attacking midfield position under Capello. It is certainly a much more natural position for the CSKA Moscow man, but it means the creative burden will fall almost solely on his shoulders in what is an otherwise workmanlike outfit.
Dzagoev was nursing an injury ahead of the Christmas period but Russia will be hoping he can get back up to speed with the World Cup on the horizon.
He is no longer the raw teenager that so many had high hopes for; he’s approaching the peak years of his career. Dzagoev is one of the most experienced players in this Russian squad now and he has a major role to play in the team. Capello will be expecting ingenuity and spark to come courtesy of him.