Under Fabio Capello, Russia are incredible hard to break down, with a stern back four, and a very good work ethic. They go to Brazil with the only squad with all 23 players from the home country’s league. With Belgium, South Korea and Algeria in their group, it’s touch and go whether they will qualify – here is our Preview:
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev, Yury Lodygin, Sergey Ryzhikov
Defenders: Vasili Berezutskiy, Vladimir Granat, Andrey Eshchenko, Sergey Ignashevich, Alexey Kozlov, Dmitry Kombarov, Andrey Semenov, Georgi Schennikov
Midfielders: Denis Glushakov, Igor Denisov, Alan Dzagoev, Yury Zhirkov, Alexey Ionov, Pavel Mogilevets, Alexander Samedov, Victor Faizulin, Oleg Shatov, Roman Shirokov
Forwards: Maxim Kanunnikov, Alexander Kerzhakov, Alexander Kokorin
In a very poor group, bar Portugal, they were rampant – beating off Ronaldo and co to 1st place, finishing with 22 points (7 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses). They won their first 4 games, giving them a great start. It was finished off with a draw against Azerbaijan, which was all they needed!
Ones to Watch:
Alan Dzagoev – In 2010 and 2012, he was incredible, but recently he has suffered a few injuries and Capello was unable to use him for much of qualifying. Viktor Fayzulin deputised, but he is fit and should make the starting 11, either behind the striker or on the left wing. Exciting player that we are looking forward to seeing again.
Roman Shirokov – in the absence of Dzagoev, and with Kerzhakov and Kokorin’s goal scoring very modest, he has been relied upon to chip in with goals. AD is fit and should start, but this man is a brilliant player, and one to keep an eye out for!
Vasili Berezutski – The centre back has been a key part of the Russian setup for many years now, currently on 77 caps. Alongside Ignashevich, the duo are key to their defensive record. With this possibly being his last World Cup, he will want it to be his best!
(4-3-3/4-2-3-1): Akinfeev, Kozlov , Berezutski, Ignashevich, Kombarov, Denisov, Fayzulin, Shirokov, Dzagoev, Kokorin, Kerzhakov.
A strong lineup – with the tactics being played around with depending on the opposition. Against stronger teams it will be 4-3-3, but against some of the weaker teams Capello feels they will dominate they will switch to 4-2-3-1. The midfield trio of Shirokov, Denisov and Fayzulin may not be too well known, but they are a very effective! Kokorin is a striker, but with wing options being limited to inexperienced players, he and Kerzhakov may well rotate, leaving Dzagoev on the left wing, or behind the forward, depending on formation. Regular Right-back Anyukov did not make the squad, with injury issues ruining his chances. Kozlov has made 10 appearances in the last 18 months in the position, so we expect the Dynamo Moscow star to appear there in Brazil.
Winner – 80/1
Group Winner – 9/4
To Qualify – 4/9
Stage of Elimination: Round of 16 – 5/4
Over 5.5 Points – Evens
Some are expecting Russia to struggle, but we think that with so much experience, and with Capello on board, they should have no problems defeating Algeria and South Korea. After that I think that they will be knocked out in the round of 16, 5/4 a great price with them likely to meet a giant should they finish 2nd in Group H. Our Top Tip however is Over 5.5 Group Points at Evens, with my prediction being they beat both Algeria and Korea.