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FIFA World Cup 2018, team profile: Russia seek maiden glory on home soil

Russia have always been a steady presence in the FIFA World Cup over the years yet have never once emerged victorious. They will have their work cut out for them again this time despite being tournament hosts.

football Updated: Jun 02, 2018 16:38 IST
Shayne Dias
Shayne Dias
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA World Cup 2018,FIFA,Russia Football team
Russia qualified as hosts for 2018 FIFA World Cup.(AFP)

World ranking: 65

Head coach: Stanislav Cherchesov

FIFA World Cup history: Qualified thrice; best - group stage (1994, 2002, 2014)

Qualifying route: Qualified as hosts

Squad (28-man preliminary): Goalkeepers - Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Soslan Dzhanaev, Andrey Lunyov; Defenders - Vladimir Granat, Sergei Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Roman Neustadter, Konstantin Rausch, Andrey Semenov, Igor Smolnikov, Mario Fernandes; Midfielders - Yuri Gazinskiy, Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Alexsandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev, Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov, Anton Miranchuk, Alexsandr Tashaev, Denis Cheryshev; Forwards - Artem Dzyuba, Aleksey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov, Fedor Chalov.

The former Soviet Union were a towering presence in world football but the status of modern-day Russia in international tournaments has taken a nosedive since the Union broke up.

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Russia, who were the largest part of the Union, have failed to make it beyond the group stages in the three times they have made it to the tournament.

One can even argue that the Russia national football team might have struggled to qualify for the tournament had they not been hosts, especially with European heavyweights Italy and Netherlands failing to make the cut.

Russia’s best showing in an international tournament came a decade ago when they reached the semi-final of the Euros, but that seems like a lifetime ago for their fans.

On paper, the current side is arguably weaker than the squad that failed to progress past the group stages in the last edition of the FIFA World Cup, which does not augur well for the current team’s chances, even with the benefit of home support.

Their form in the build-up to the FIFA World Cup 2018 has not inspired confidence either. They have lost to both France and Austria thus far and will need to up their game considerably should they want to make it through to the knockout rounds at least.

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However, their group – which consists of Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Egypt – isn’t the toughest group in the tournament and national team coach Stanislav Cherchesov will hope his side can raise their game when it’s most needed.

Three players to watch out for

Alan Dzagoev – The versatile attacking midfielder is arguably the biggest star of this current Russia side. He’s creative, pacey and extremely technical in nature and his all-round excellent play will be key to the home side’s chances in the tournament.

Fyodor Smolov – The striker who plays for Krasnador in the Russian Premier League is a solid and consistent presence up front. His form up front will go a long way in deciding the fate of the host nation.

Denis Cheryshev – The Villarreal attacker, who has also played for a number of clubs in Spain, isn’t the biggest goalscorer but has been a consistent presence for Russia over the past few years and he will have to be at his best in this tournament.

First Published: Jun 02, 2018 16:38 IST