The Newsroom reviews each team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Team: Russia.
The group has a surprisingly positive outlook for Brazil after qualifying above Portugal in their group. Russia are in group H with the likes of Belgium, South Korea and Algeria. The Russians will be hoping former England boss Fabio Capello can inspire Mother Russia to World Cup ecstasy in what will be their 3rd appearance.
FIFA World Ranking: 18th
Strengths: From back to front, the Russians have quality. The entire team ply their trade in the Russian League so they have great communication and teamwork. The Russians possess a real threat in the attacking third and solidarity in the backs, with the midfield being a mix of the two. The Russian squad is an experienced one with an average age of 27.
Weaknesses: During the group stages, Russia conceded three 90th-minute goals; the same lack of focus in Brazil would spell danger. The veteran Aleksandr Kerzhakov has failed to perform at international level, netting just 25 goals in 80 appearances. Russia tends to switch off and lose concentration, so the mental side of their game may become a costly flaw.
Key players: Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kokorin are the two under the spotlight. Dzagoev impressed in a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign for the Russians. The 23-year-old’s pace and flair will terrorise defences. Kokorin needs to match that potency in front of goal for Russia.
Manager: Fabio Capello’s philosophy did not work with England. Rather than change or adapt, he remained firm and it has worked wonders for Russia. Since his appointment in July 2012, he has built Russia from the back, putting them on track for the World Cup qualifications.
Prediction: Round of 16. Russia has a strong core squad but was missing synergy, leading to continual disappointment. Brazil brings a new challenge and Russia expects to progress past the groups, but they face giants in the next round. – Jake O’Brien