Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Russia will be very hospitable and the National team very unpredictable.
As the nation prepares to host the Confederations Cup and the World Cup next year, Lavrov’s words will be ringing in the ears of every football follower.
On the field of play, the Russians will be unpredictable. How much will they do? How far can they go? The Confederations Cup, where they have automatic entry as hosts just as in the World Cup, will give a fair indication of the answers that might come up in response to their unpredictability.
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Only Mexico, France and Brazil have won the Confederations Cup at home. None gave Mexico a chance. France were not expected to win either. Yes, Brazil were expected to.
Can the Russians match that record ? They are in group A with Portugal, Mexico and New Zealand. Russia have a realistic chance of making it to the semis. Portugal, European champions, should top the group. Mexico have been more unpredictable than Russia. So the hosts can hope to overcome them. New Zealand should not be a hurdle. From then on, there will be no easy games and only their work rate will count.
From the divided Soviet Union to the present times, soccer has witnessed tremendous changes in class and quality.
In the undivided Soviet Union era, it was legendary goalkeeper Lev Ivanovich Yashin who epitomized everything. The ‘Black Panther’ who died in 1990, is credited with a number of innovations in goalkeeping. Yashin was the first goalkeeper to use his hands to throw the ball to an unmarked player. He called out to his defenders, came off his goal line to intercept crosses and also rushed out to tackle onrushing attackers.
The game had not witnessed a goalkeeper doing all that. Always sporting an all-black gear Yashin played in four World Cups from 1958 to 1970, all in the Brazilian legend Pele era. In 2002 Yashin was chosen on the FIFA DREAM TEAM of the history of World Cups.
Rinat Fayzrakhmanovich Dasayev, Oleg Blokhin, Belanov, Oleg Protasov, Igor Chislenko carried on the Yashin legacy as the Soviets were around at the highest levels of international soccer.
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Sergei Ignashevich, most capped Russian, Viktor Onopko, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham Hotspurs) , Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal) then came on to the scene and tried to hold the Russian flag aloft.
Managers like Diutchmen Dick Advocaat and Guys Hiddink as also Italian Fabio Capello did help matters and Russia became a permanent feature of the World Cup and UEFA EURO Cup finals.
Russia has figured in the 1994, 2002 and 2014 World Cups but lost out in the group stage. Russia, however reached the Euro Cup semi-finals in 2008 under GuusHiddink.
Stanislav Salamovich Cherchesov took over the managerial reins in August 2016 after Leonid Slutsky left following the UEFA EURO 2016 finals.
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Stanislav has a lot on his plate as the Russians will have to prove that it is not just ‘from Russia with love’ but also ‘no love from Russia on the field’.
He has a talented bunch and only time will tell if their foreign minister was right in his assessment of their fortunes.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (Captain )(CSKA Moscow), Guilherme Marinato (Lokomotiv Moscow),Aleksandr Belenov (Ufa), Andrei Lunyov (Zenit Saint Petersburg).
Defenders; Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Roman Shishkin (Krasnodar), Fyodor Kudryashov (FC Rostov), Andrei Semyonov (Terek Grozny),Roman Neustädter (Fenerbahce), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow),
Ruslan Kambolov (Rubin Kazan), Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Mário Fernandes (CSKA Moscow).
Midfielders: Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Aleksandr Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Magomed Ozdoyev (Terek Grozny), Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow), Aleksei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Aleksandr Yerokhin (FC Rostov), Yuri Gazinski (Krasnodar).
Forwards Dmitri Tarasov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Artem Dzyuba (Zenit Saint Petersburg).
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