Euro 2016: Russia will struggle against top class opposition

Leonid Slutsky rescued their qualifying campaign but unlikely to see Russia advancing beyond second round

Russia and Slovakia sit alongside the moutwatering draw of England and Wales in Group B, but will Gareth Bale's individual brilliance be enough to defeat England's new-found collective? Ken Early reports.

 

Prospects

This is not one of the great Russian sides, one suspects, and having given up on hiring in a foreign manager on big bucks who might somehow be able to make them into something far greater than the sum of their parts, the man in charge now - Leonid Slutsky - is actually dividing his time between this and the CSKA Moscow job. He certainly knows the players, almost all of whom play in Russia, a few of them at his club, and that should count for something. So too should the fact that striker Artem Dzyuba will come to the tournament full of confidence after a good qualifying campaign while his Zenit st Petersburg strike partner Aleksandr Kokorin has been in good shape for a spell after several seasons blighted by injury. The four points they took from the qualifying games against Sweden suggest they must be taken seriously but the fact that Austria beat them home and away is an indication that they will not really trouble the better sides in France. The second round looks to be about the size of it for them.

How they qualified

Russia got their qualifying campaign off to quite a shaky start in Group G. After beating minnows Lichtenstein 4-0 they first drew with Sweden, then drew with Moldova before losing to a strong Austria side. Things were looking grim until they came out on the correct side of a Uefa ruling which helped kick-start their campaign. After drawing 0-0 away to Montenegro, the Russians were awarded a 3-0 win as a result of the crowd trouble that hampered the match and saw goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev struck on the head with a flare after just 30 minutes. Although they lost their next match 1-0 to Austria they then embarked on a four-game winning streak to finish two points ahead of Sweden and qualify automatically.

Manager: Leonid Slutsky

That four-game winning streak was brought about by the sacking of Fabio Capello and the instalment of Leonid Slutsky as interim manager. The 45-year-old - who has previously been linked with the Chelsea job - had just won back-to-back Russian titles with CSKA Moscow before being brought in to rescue the national side’s Euro 2016 hopes. He did so with aplomb, turning the side around completely and leading them to France. Slutsky famously had his playing career ended at the age of just 19 when he fell out of a tree while attempting to rescue a neighbour’s cat.

Star man: Artem Dzyuba

With key man Alan Dzagoev ruled out of the final thanks to a broken foot, Dzyuba takes over the mantle as Russia’s best hope in advancing past the group stages. The 6’5” Zenit St Petersburg striker netted eight times in eight appearances during qualifying and will need to maintain that form in France. The 27-year-old also scored 15 goals for his club last season, just two less than Brazilian talisman Hulk.

Prospect: Aleksandr Golovin

From southwestern Siberia, the 19-year-old CSKA Moscow's 19-year-old attacking midfielder has settled quickly in international football and attracted the interest of some of Europe's biggest clubs. Responded to former manager Fabio Capello's faith by becoming the first Russian ever to score in his first two internationals.

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moskva), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moskva), Yuri Lodygin (Zenit).

Defenders: Aleksei Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), Vasili Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moskva),  Roman Neustädter (Schalke), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moskva), Roman Shishkin (Lokomotiv Moskva), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit).

Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Zenit), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moskva), Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moskva), Oleg Ivanov (Terek Grozny), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moskva), Pavel Mamaev (Krasnodar), Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moskva), Oleg Shatov (Zenit), Roman Shirokov (CSKA Moskva), Dmitri Torbinski (Krasnodar).  

Strikers: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit), Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar).

What President Trump says...

“The Russians? Great vodka, great women. I like Vladimir Putin because he called me a genius. He said Trump is the real leader. He’s a smart guy.”

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