The 2018 FIFA World Cup is just over a fortnight away. As the greatest extravaganza in the world of Professional Sports is waiting to unfold, the 32 qualified nations are all set with their “warriors” to challenge for global supremacy.
In our special series, we will be discussing about each team individually. And we start here with the hosts Russia.
Team : Russia
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Captain: Igor Akinfeev
Last Qualified in: 2014
Result in 2014: Eliminated in Group Stages (24th overall)
Qualified as: Hosts (02 December 2010)
Previous World Cup Appearances: (10 times) 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990 (As Soviet Union*), 1994, 2002, 2014 (As Russia)
Best World Cup Finals Result: 4th in 1966 (As Soviet Union*), Group Stages in 1994, 2002 and 2014 (As Russia)
Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Soslan Dzhanaev, Andrey Lunev; Vladimir Granat, Sergei Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Roman Neustadter, Konstantin Rausch, Andrey Semenov, Igor Smolnikov, Mario Fernandes; Yuri Gazinskiy, Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Alexsandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev , Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov, Anton Miranchuk, Alexsandr Tashaev, Denis Cheryshev; Artem Dzyuba, Aleksey Miranchuk, Fyodor Smolov, Fyodor Chalov.
1) Igor Akinfeev:
The 32-year old will be leading the Sbornaya in the tournament. The CSKA Moscow goalkeeper has 104 caps for his national team and is their fourth most capped player in history behind Ignashevich, Blokhin (USSR) and Onopko. The form of the top ranked member of the Lev Yashin Club under the bar will determine Russia’s progress in the tournament.
2) Sergei Ignashevich:
The legendary Russian defender is the highest capped player in the history of both the Russian and Soviet Union national teams with 120 caps to his name. The CSKA Moscow defender came out of international retirement and was called for the preliminary squad to replace the injured Ruslan Kambolov. Even at 38-years old, the former skipper will be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Russian back-line.
3) Alexander Golovin:
The CSKA Moscow midfielder is considered to be one of the hottest prospects in the world. The 22-year old has been branded as his nation’s Brightest Young Star by former Russia Coach Leonid Slutsky. After impressing in the FIFA Confederation’s Cup, the host nation will look upto as how this Arsenal target performs on the big stage.
4) Yuri Zhirkov:
The former Chelsea midfielder was included in the team of the tournament way back in the UEFA Euro 2008. The Russian fans will hope that the 9th most capped Russian (including USSR) player in history will be recreating some of that form this summer on home soil, especially after a strong show last year in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
5) Alexsandr Samedov:
The Spartak Moscow winger impressed all and sundry in last summer’s Confederations’ Cup on home soil. The 33-year old even scored the opening goal in their match against Mexico. He has been in pretty good form in the Russian Premier League and will definitely be a very important part of the Russian team.
6) Fyodor Smolov:
The Krasnodar forward has been in top form for his club this season. The 28-year old finished second behind Quincy Promes in the top scorer list in the Russian Premier League with 14 goals. He has scored 12 times in 30 appearances for the national side. The host nation will be heavily depending upon him to look for goals, especially given his would have been strike partner Aleksandr Kokorin will be missing the world cup with an injury.
The Russian team has not been in the best form of late. In their last 13 international matches they have only won thrice against Hungary, New Zealand and South Korea while they drew 4 and lost 6. Their last win came way back in October against the Koreans while they lost against Brazil and France in their last two matches.
Russian were drawn in Group A as hosts by default. They are joined by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay after the draw. They will kick off their campaign Saudi Arabia in the opening match on 14th of June, followed by Egypt and Uruguay on 19th and 25th June respectively.
Drawn in a tough group with former 2-time winners Uruguay, African powerhouse Egypt and Saudi Arabia (who are capable of a few upsets), it will require a very good performance from the hosts to even qualify from their groups. While it is still a possibility, a possible second round encounter with Spain or Portugal will mean that the hosts are very unlikely to go beyond the last 16 stage at best.
Oleg Salenko of Russia holds the record of scoring the most goals in a single World Cup match with 5 goals against Cameroon in 1994. He is also the only player in history to have won the World Cup Golden Boot without playing in a single knockout match.
How far do you think Russia will progress in this World Cup? Comment below!
Photo by marcoverch