2018 World Cup | Qualifying Team Guide | Russia

Tournament hosts Russia will be hoping to end a lengthy spell of mediocrity at the 2018 World Cup. They will play group games in Moscow, St Petersburg and the South Eastern city of Samara where they will have a lot to prove for the Russia World Cup.

  • Fifa Ranking Position: 32
  • Tournament Best: 4th 1966 (Soviet Union)
  • World Cup Appearances: 10

Since reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2008, Russia have won only one of nine matches at major championships. They failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After being awarded the rights to stage the 2018 competition, they hired Fabio Capello as coach. However, the former England boss was fired after presiding over a continued stagnation of the team, while he alienated supporters with his constant tinkering with formations.

Leonid Slutsky, now manager of Hull City, replaced Capello for last summer’s finals in France. Though, he was reliant on an ageing group of players, with Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksei and Vasili Berezutski and Roman Shirokov all in their 30s. Between November 2015 and October 2016, Russia won just two of 12 matches. They took a solitary point from a fortunate 1-1 draw with England before losing to both Slovakia and Wales.

New Management for Russia World Cup

The old guard have now gone and Stanislav Cherchesov has taken over as manager. Cherchesov is tasked with leading his side to the latter knockout stages of the tournament. The 54-year-old former goalkeeper won 49 caps for the Soviet Union and Russia. His most recent coaching roles were at Dynamo Moscow and Legia Warsaw, who he took to a league and cup double in Poland in 2015/16 before heading back to his homeland.

Cherchesov made an inauspicious start. His side beat New Zealand but lost to both Portugal and Mexico at this Summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia. Although, a 4-2 friendly win over South Korea in October and November’s entertaining 3-3 draw with Spain suggest he has brought some vitality back to the team.

The average age of the starting XI against Spain was the same as that which started against England in Marseille in June 2016, although the players selected boasted a combined total of 115 fewer caps. Former Chelsea wing-back Yuri Zhirkov, still an important player for his country at 34, was the only outfield veteran in the side.

Russia vs Argentina at Russia World Cup Stadium

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, centre, challenges Russia’s Fydor Smolov, right, and Alan Dzagoev during their international friendly soccer match between Russia and Argentina at Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) @ Polfoto

Form for the Russia World Cup

The form of the Krasnodar striker Fyodor Smolov, who has scored six goals in the last 10 internationals and close to 50 league games since joining the club in 2015, has been one of the highlights. CSKA Moscow playmaker Alan Dzagoev, who missed Euro 2016 with a broken foot, is another key player in Cherchesov’s preferred 5-3-2 formation.

However, the feeling remains that Russia lack the depth of quality needed to go a long way into the tournament. They are still some way short of matching the achievements of the Soviet Union. They won the European Championship in 1960 and reached three further finals, the last in 1988. Results in recent years back this up, with Russia winning seven and losing seven of their last 20 competitive internationals.

Their defensive frailties are also a concern. The eight defenders selected for the matches against Argentina and Spain in November averaged fewer than 10 caps each. Cherchesov must find a settled back three ahead of the summer. His side have kept only one clean sheet in their last eight matches.

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2018-08-01
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