FIFA World Cup 2018: Igor Akinfeev looks to lead Russia’s title charge | football | Hindustan Times
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Igor Akinfeev looks to lead Russia’s title charge

Russia are hosting the FIFA World Cup 2018 and the nation’s fans will be banking on veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to guide them to the knock-out stages of the tournament.

football Updated: Jun 10, 2018 19:35 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Igor Akinfeev has played 104 times for his country and has turned his once middling club CSKA Moscow into a perennial title contender.
Igor Akinfeev has played 104 times for his country and has turned his once middling club CSKA Moscow into a perennial title contender. (AP)

Country: Russia

Position: Goalkeeper

FIFA World Cup appearances: 3

From being one of the longest serving footballers in the Russia football team to recorded a couple of songs with the Russian pop group Ruki Vverkh! (“Hands up!”), Igor Akinfeev has truly done it all.

The CSKA Moscow goalkeeper has been a regular for his national team since making his international debut fourteen years ago and when the FIFA World Cup comes to his country in 2018, the entire nation will once again be banking on the veteran to guide them to the knock-out stages.

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While Akinfeev has more clean sheets than any other Russian goalkeeper in history, his club record in European football has been relatively poor.

The 32-year old held the unwanted record of 43 UEFA Champions League games without a clean sheet, which only ended when CSKA Moscow beat Benfica 2-0.

However, he still remains Russia’s best bet in front of the goal as he has played 104 times for his country and has turned his once middling club CSKA Moscow into a perennial title contender.

In 2018, he was named Russia’s goalkeeper of the year for a record 10th time and his 669 appearances for club and country far surpass those of Soviet Union goalkeeping legends Lev Yashin and Rinat Dasayev.

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“Years ago, I said he could end up being the world number one. Yes, he always made little mistakes, but I think he still has time to write his name into history,” former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said about Igor Akinfeev when asked about Akinfeev’s chances in the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Russia’s three top defenders are all injured ahead of the tournament and that makes Akinfeev’s job even more crucial.

The goalkeeper, who has won six domestic titles and a UEFA cup with his boyhood club CSKA Moscow, will be the biggest name in the hosts’ defence and if Russia wants to reach the knockout stages in front of the home crowd, Akinfeev will have to produce a special performance.