sports blog by andy shenk

Developing the National Team: Russia Moving Forward

In Russian Football on June 7, 2013 at 1:28 PM

My thoughts on the Russian national team and its looming remake in advance of the 2018 World Cup, which will be hosted by Russia for the first time ever. Posted at Russian Football News, click here or at the end of this excerpt to read the entire article.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the future of Russia’s national team since Dick Advocaat’s squad crashed out of Euro 2012. An eight-match unbeaten streak for the senior team with Fabio Capello at the helm has put Russia in excellent position to qualify for Brazil 2014, but major questions remain, particularly in the junior ranks. Despite Capello’s willingness to call up a much broader selection of players – provincial clubs like Terek, Kuban, Rubin and Anzhi have seen a jump in national team invites in the last year – the starting XI has hardly been touched.

Sure, there have been gradual adjustments to the watershed 2008 squad that upset Holland in the Euro quarterfinals, but the defense remains nearly the same – Akinfeev in goal, Anyukov, V. Berezutski, Ignashevich on the back line – while the rest of the squad isn’t much younger. The Zenit midfield trio of Denisov, Shirokov and Fayzulin, likely to start on Friday vs Portugal, are 29, 31 and 27, respectively. Up front, Bystrov, Zhirkov and Kerzhakov are even older – 29, 29 and 30.

Dzagoev and Kokorin, both 22, are the two bright spots in Russia’s future, but they are the only two players to have featured in an official match that will also be under 30 come 2018. Dmitri Kombarov and Andrei Eschenko, two left backs (though Kombarov can play in the midfield, as well) are more recent additions to the squad, but at 26 and 29, only Kombarov is likely to factor in 2018. 27-year-old goalie Igor Akinfeev and Viktor Fayzulin will be there, too, barring injury, along with super sub midfielder Dmitri Glushakov, but that’s the extent of Russia’s U-27 talent with national team experience.

Goalie Akinfeev, left back Kombarov, centre midfielders Fayzulin and Glushakov and attacking midfielders Dzagoev and Kokorin… Replacements for centre backs Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski, right back Anyukov, holding midfielder Igor Denisov and forward Kerzhakov will have to be found in the coming years, as well as some much-needed depth.

That’s why the 2013 European Under-21 Championships have been so eagerly awaited (or dreaded, depending on your outlook) in Russia. The 2018 generation, as some call it, is slotted in the group of death Spain, Holland and Germany.

Continue reading at Russian Football News.

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