Russia will be hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first ever time and they’ll be hoping to end their dismal record of never making it beyond the group stage.
As part of the Soviet Union, they finished fourth place in the 1966 World Cup, won the 1960 European Championship and also reached three other European Championship finals between 1964 and 1988.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has only qualified for three of the previous six World Cup finals. In 2014, Russia experienced their worst ever World Cup by failing to win a single match and exiting the competition once again at the group stage.
Their most promising major tournament performance to date was at Euro 2008 when they reached the semi-finals but they’ve been unable to replicate this achievement over the past decade.
Stanislav Cherchesov took charge of Russia in 2016 but has been unable to boost morale across the nation. In his 19 matches at the helm, they’ve won only five and lost a demoralizing 9, which suggests they’re heading into the World Cup out of shape.
Road to Russia
The National Team automatically qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by virtue of being the hosts of the tournament. Instead, they’ve organized numerous friendlies to prepare for the tournament and their current form is a worrying sign ahead of the tournament.
They’ve won only three of their last fifteen matches and have failed to win any of their previous seven fixtures. At the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, Russia was unable to progress beyond the group stage and recorded just one win against New Zealand in their opening fixture.
Style of Play
Russia has switched from a back-four to a back-three since the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The team lack quality in personnel which makes the function and tactical organization of the team particularly important.
The wing backs will advance forward to add attacking width due to the compactness of the midfield. Dzagoev, Glushakov and Golovin will play as a flat midfield-three but Dzagoev and Golovin have the potential to involve themselves in the final third.
Aleksei Miranchuk will play as the playmaker behind target man Fyodor Smolov, who won the golden boot in the Russian Premier League in two out of the last three seasons. The midfield will usually sit deep and the wing backs will advance forward to create a five-man midfield. This will make it very difficult for the opposition to break through them and they’ll aim to break on the counter-attack to find the sole striker.
They play a highly unattractive style of football but it could be effective against the counter-attacking teams in Group A. Egypt will aim to rip through the opposition using their pace and it could be very hard for them to do so with numerous players committed in defensive zones.
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov
Cherchesov was a goalkeeper during his playing career and he spent the majority of his playing days in Russia. He made 39 appearances for Russia and played at the 1994 and 2002 World Cup finals.
He started out in management with two spells in Austria but returned to Russia after only three years. Cherchesov was unable to replicate the success he achieved as a player during his managerial spells in Russia and he managed five different clubs between 2007 and 2015.
His most successful spell was with his previous club Legia Warsaw where he won the league and cup double. The Russian Football Federation were impressed by his progress in Poland and appointed him as first team manager in August 2016.
Key Player: Aleksandr Golovin
Despite being only 22 years old, CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin has impressed since making his international bow in 2015. Scoring on his debut made him an instantaneous hit with supporters but he’s also become a key member in midfield for Russia over the past three years.
Golovin was part of the team that won the Under-17 European Championship in 2013 and he’s fulfilled his potential thus far. He works very hard in the heart of midfield and also adds quality in the final third. Last season, Golovin scored seven goals and made four assists in all competitions for CSKA Moscow and has been linked with numerous clubs around Europe.
Striker Fyodor Smolov will also be crucial in the attack for Russia. The Krasnodar star has netted 12 goals in 32 caps and 63 goals in 99 appearances at club level over the past three seasons. The ever-present Igor Akinfeev could also be busy during the 2018 World Cup and the devoted CSKA Moscow shot stopper will be able to showcase his quality on home soil.