The greatest sporting event on Earth returns once again after four years. 32 teams are all set to fight it out till the tournament reaches its crescendo at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow where only one team will emerge victorious to be crowned the Champions of the World. With Russia hosting the World Cup, let us look at the host nation’s chances at the World Cup.
● Squad for the World Cup:
Igor Akinfeev(CSKA Moscow)
Vladimir Gabulov(Club Brugge)
Andrey Lunyov(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Soslan Dzhanayev(Rubin Kazan)
Sergei Ignashevich(CSKA Moscow)
Dmitri Kombarov(Spartak Moscow)
Igor Smolnikov(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Fyodor Kudryashov(Rubin Kazan)
Vladimir Granat(Rubin Kazan)
Ilya Kutepov(Spartak Moscow)
Andrei Semyonov(Akhmat Grozny)
Konstantin Rausch(Dynamo Moscow)
Mário Fernandes(CSKA Moscow)
Vladislav Ignatyev(Lokomotiv Moscow)
Yuri Zhirkov(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Denis Glushakov(Spartak Moscow)
Alan Dzagoev(CSKA Moscow)
Aleksandr Samedov(Spartak Moscow)
Aleksandr Golovin(CSKA Moscow)
Aleksandr Yerokhin(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Roman Zobnin(Spartak Moscow)
Daler Kuzyayev(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Anton Miranchuk(Lokomotiv Moscow)
Anton Shvets(Akhmat Grozny)
Aleksandr Tashayev(Dynamo Moscow)
Artem Dzyuba(Arsenal Tula)
Aleksei Miranchuk(Lokomotiv Moscow)
Dmitry Poloz(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Anton Zabolotny(Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Fyodor Chalov(CSKA Moscow)
● Coaching Staff:
○ Head coach – Stanislav Cherchesov
○ Assistant coach – Miroslav Romaschenko
○ Goalkeeping coach – Gintaras Staučė
○ Fitness coach – Vladimir Panikov
● Squad Analysis:
The legendary goalkeeper, Stanislav Cherchesov was appointed the Head Coach of the Russian National team in August 2016. He took over the mantle from Leonid Slutsky following a dismal Euro 2016 campaign, where Russia was in the news for all the wrong reasons and finished at the bottom of the group mustering just a point against England. The new head coach has a monumental task at hand as he has been given the target of reaching the semifinals of the competition. The former Legia Warsaw manger will look forward to taking up the challenge and cement his place in the Russian football history alongside the likes of Lev Yashin.
The manager has picked the squad shrewdly with the perfect blend of youth and experience. The experience of the likes of Igor Akinfeev, Yuri Zhirkov, Sergei Iganshevic will provide the much-needed experience as the young guns like Alexander Golobin would look to set the stage on fire.
● Line Ups and Expected formations :
The Russian teams were never known for their flamboyant display of skills and attacking poise. One Andre Arshavin was an exception as he single handedly took Russia to the semis of the Euro 2008. The Russian teams were usually known for their discipline and holding a machine-like tempo throughout the match.
○ Expected formation:
The Russians play an improvised version of the 3-5-2 formation. Alan Dzagoev will play as the playmaker for the two strikers up front. Cherchesov has made several high profile changes specially at the back Roman Neustadter(Fenerbahçe), Fedor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow) in what will be three man defence. In midfield Igor Denisov is unlikely to be part of the squad after falling out with national team coach while Alan Dzagoev is the stand out starter in this Russian side with couple of quality goal scorers in Fyodor Smolov and Antem Dzyuba spearheading the attack.
○ Starting XI :
Goal Keeper : Igor Akinfeev
Defence : Roman Neustadter, Fedor Kudryashov ,Dmitri Kombarov
Wing Backs : Yuri Zhirkov, Alexsandr Samedov
Midfilders : Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Alexsandr Yerokhin
Forwards: Fyodor Smolov, Antem Dzyuba
● Team Rating:
There are limited household names and breakthrough stars in the team. What the Russians could really bank upon is the team coordination and the never say die attitude. A lot will depend on Alan Dzagoev and his ability to create chances.
• Goalkeeper : 7/10 .
• Defense : 6/10
• Midfield : 6/10
• Forwards : 5/10
• Overall : 6/10
● Past Record :
1994: Group stage (18th)
1998: Did not qualify
2002: Group stage (22nd)
2006: Did not qualify
2010: Did not qualify
2014: Group stage 24th
● Recent Form :
The Russians haven’t been in exemplary or breath-taking form. They crashed out of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup after finishing at the bottom of the group. Even their latest friendly against France saw them crashing to a 3-1 defeat. It would be interesting to see, what the Russians could conjure up in the world cup. Surely the presence of the fearsome ultras groups in the home support would bring a change in tide in their fortunes.
● Hurdles In The Group:
The host nation has been clubbed with Egypt, UAE and Uruguay in the group stages. Egypt boasting of Mohammed Salah and Uruguay with the attack of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will be tough nut to crack for the Russians. They can expect to defeat UAE. Russia in the previous campaigns have never gone past their group stages and it will be difficult for them this time too despite being the host nations.
● Manager’s Words :
“We’re learning about Saudi Arabia gradually. This team has a new coach, which means overanalysing their matches from last year would be pointless because there may have been a lot of changes. We’re observing how they’re playing in warm-up matches.
I recently travelled to England to watch some of Egypt’s leading players in action: Mohamed Salah at Liverpool, Mohamed Elneny at Arsenal, and the pair at West Bromwich [Albion]. I’m sure that they too will have changed a lot compared to last year.
Uruguay are one of the best teams in South America. They’re always at the World Cup and their top stars play for clubs like Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.” The gaffer said in an interview with FIFA.
● Writer’s Take :
It will be exceedingly difficult for the Russians to go past the group stages into the knockouts. Mohammed Salah at this moment seems to be the best player in the World given he is completely fit, scoring for fun and it will take the Russians a monumental effort to stop them. The Uruguayans are one of the finest teams in South America, with their attacking duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. A lot will depend on the shoulders of Alan Dzagoev who is yet to fulfill his true potential after being tipped for greatness at an early age. This will probably be his last World Cup to prove a point.
But stranger things have happened in football. With the home crowd and the fearsome Russian Ultras behind their back, Russia just might get their best result in the World Cups.