Russia – World Cup 2014 – Group H

RUSSIA

17-June South Korea (11pm GMT Cuiaba)

22-June Belgium (5pm GMT Rio de Janeiro)

26-June Algeria (9pm GMT Curitiba)

Russia were very pragmatic in beating Portugal to top spot in qualifying. Aman Sehdev argues they have enough quality to advance to the last 16 – but no more.

Coach: Fabio Capello

A decorated Coach in world football, the Italian has won League titles in Spain and his homeland. He has brought stability and discipline to the Russian national team since taking over in 2012 and guided them to an impressive qualification campaign, topping a group containing Portugal.Capello will be desperate for a good showing in Brazil after a mediocre campaign in charge of England at World Cup 2010. He will remain in charge to guide Russia through a home World Cup in 2018. 

Why they could be dangerous

Russia impressed greatly in qualifying, beating Portugal to top spot. Capellohas been pragmatic in his tactical set up, which has made them hard to beat – conceding only five goals in qualifying and holding Brazil to a 1-1 draw in a friendly last year. Roman Shirokov, Viktor Fayzulin and Aleksandr Kerzhakovwill be tasked with providing the quality going forward which should see them qualify behind Belgium in the group. A last 16 tie with Germany would await, which will be very tough to overcome.

The world on his shoulders: Aleksandr Kerzhakov

Kerzhakov is the most prolific scorer in Russian history with over 200 goals in competitive matches. The Zenit Saint Petersburg striker is closing in on the all time record of international goals for Russia – currently on 24 he needs just three more. Will be the focal point of Russia’s attacks at the World Cup and will be expected to shoulder the burden of goalscoring. Showed he is a man for the big occasion with the winner against Portugal in qualification.  

Did you know?

As the Soviet Union they reached three quarter-finals in 1958, 1962 and 1970. However, since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Russian national team in 1992, they have qualified for just their third World Cup in the last six editions. In their two appearances as Russia in 1994 and 2002 they were eliminated at the group stage. This current Russia team will be hoping to make the knock-out stages in Brazil 2014.

Country legend: Lev Yashin

Regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in history, Lev Yashin is to date the only ‘keeper to have won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in 1963. A decorated career saw ‘The Black Spider’ play for Dynamo Moscow for 20 years and collect 78 caps for the Soviet Union. His international career coincided with a golden age for Soviet soccer, with an Olympic gold medal in 1956, a European Championship in 1960 and fourth place at the 1966 World Cup.

Formation: 4-3-3

Russia rely on defensive stability and a hard working midfield three of IgorDenisovShirokov and Fayzulin. They possess a safe pair of hands in goal in the form of the experienced Igor Akinfeevmarshalling a backline that includes Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski. Russia look to keep it tight and counter attack on the wings with Aleksandr  Samedov and AleksandrKokorin or Alan DzagoevShirokov breaks up the play and is supported by the marauding Fayzulin, while Kerzhakov puts away the chances created for him.

Russia versus…

…South Korea P1 W1 D0 L0 F2 A1

…Belgium P8 W4 D1 L3 F12 A10

…Algeria P1 W0 D1 L0 F2 A2

Stats

Population: 143.6 million

World Cup appearances: 9

Best finish: Fourth in England 1966

Famous for: Winning the 1960 European Championship as the Soviet Union and producing one of the games’ finest ever goalkeepers in Lev Yashin.

Top Division: Russian Soccer Premier League

How they got to the World Cup: Finished 1st in Europe Group F

FIFA World Ranking: 18

Last World Cup Appearance: Japan/South Korea 2002 – Eliminated at the group stage

Continental Honours1960 UEFA European Champions

Most Capped Player: Viktor Onopko (109 caps)

Leading International Scorer: Vladimir Beschastnykh (26 goals)

Nickname: Sbornaya – The National Team