Three years on from Russia’s surprise quarter-final appearance on home soil, Russia will be keen to show to the world that, the world cup was no fluke and they are capable of causing upsets once more. Stanislas Cherchesov’s side impressively managed 8 wins out of 10 in their qualifying group only losing out twice to Belgium with many impressive victories along the way including a 9-0 thrashing of minnows San Marino, a 4-0 victory over Scotland and a 5-0 win over Cyprus, the common theme here being clean sheets with 7 clean sheets in 10 games.
The former Soviet Union won the inaugural European Championships in 1960, but Russia’s best performance since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992 was a shock semi-final appearance in 2008 which had Russia as the lowest seed when they only snuck into the tournament due to England’s golden generation contriving to fail to qualify under Steve Mclaren. This side led by Guus Hiddink featuring young stars Andre Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko who’s impressive performances in this tournament earned themselves moves to Arsenal and Tottenham respectively in the following year.
Since then two disappointing group stage exits in Euro 2012 and 2016 means Russia will feel they have a point to prove at this year’s championships.
Stanislav Cherchesov took over after the underwhelming showing at Euro 2016 and has credit in the bank after Russia’s impressive showing as the host nation at the most recent World Cup, becoming the first Russian manager since the collapse of the former USSR, to take Russia into a knockout stage of a major international tournament. They play a 3-4-2-1 formation, spearheaded by captain and striker Artem Dzyuba standing at a ginormous 6 feet 6 inches and often perhaps unsurprisingly likened to Peter Crouch.
Russia fans will be hoping to match their quarter-final achievement from the last major tournament but the general consensus is reaching the knockout stage would be a success for ‘Sbornaya’.
The Fixtures & Squad
12/06/21 Belgium vs Russia 20:00
16/06/21 Finland vs Russia 14:00
21/06/21 Russia vs Denmark 20:00
Goalkeepers: Yuri Dyupin (Rubin), Matvei Safonov (Krasnodar), Anton Shunin (Dinamo Moskva).
Defenders: Igor Diveev (CSKA Moskva), Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moskva), Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moskva), Vyacheslav Karavaev (Zenit), Fedor Kudryashov (Antalyaspor), Andrei Semenov (Akhmat).
Midfielders: Dmitri Barinov (Lokomotiv Moskva), Denis Cheryshev (Valencia), Daniil Fomin (Dinamo Moskva), Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit), Andrei Mostovoy (Zenit), Maksim Mukhin (CSKA Moskva), Magomed Ozdoev (Zenit), Rifat Zhemaletdinov (Lokomotiv Moskva), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moskva).
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit), Aleksei Ionov (Krasnodar), Denis Makarov (Rubin), Aleksei Miranchuk (Atalanta), Aleksandr Sobolev (Spartak Moskva), Anton Zabolotny (CSKA Moskva).
Artem Dyzuba– As mentioned above the 1.97m striker who represents Zenit will be key for the ‘Sbornaya’s’ chances of doing well at these championships and his ability to hold up the ball, his finishing and his aerial presence will make him a handful for any defender and his performances will be key for the Russians.
Aleksandr Golovin– The 25-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for Monaco is one of the main creative outlets in this Russia teams tending to play coming in from the left in Russia’s front 3. Having got 9 assists last season for Monaco, his and Artem Dyzuba’s link-up will be vital for Cherchesov’s side if they are to be successful at the 15th European Championships.
Mario Fernandes– The CSKA Moscow right full-back born in Brazil, playing for Brazil youth teams before deciding to change allegiance, and he was a vital cog in the 2018 World Cup team and will once again be providing the width as one of Russia’s wing-backs.
As one of the host nations, once again they will have home advantage in two games which could prove vital in a group where Belgium seem to be the overwhelming favourite but after that Russia’s home advantage could give them the advantage over Denmark and Finland. They will play Belgium at home and they showed against Spain that they are capable of mixing it with the big nations especially with home support. A win in matchday two against Finland in Russia seems vital which could lead to a mouthwatering decider for second place against Denmark in Copenhagen.
I think they will reach the knockout stages either as a runner up or one of the best third-placed teams on the assumption they beat Finland, however, I think thats as far as they will go as they are likely to run into Belgium, Holland, Portugal or Spain, all of which I expect to be a bridge too far for this Russia side.
How will the Russians perform at these championships? Will they reach the knockout stages or even replicate their World Cup heroics? Comment below
If you enjoyed this article, check out my Twitter for much more @jacob_baum_
Main Image Credits- Embed from Getty Images