Russia’s forward Artem Dzyuba celebrates with teammates
After a memorable 2018 World Cup campaign, in which the hosts upset Spain on penalties and were only narrowly denied by Croatia in the quarter-finals, Russia are hoping to make their presence felt once again.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side finished second in their Euro 2020 qualifying group, winning eight out of 10 matches, with their only two defeats coming at the hands of world No 1 ranked Belgium, to provide evidence that their heroics in home turf were not an anomaly.
Perhaps, it should not be such a great surprise. In Aleksandr Golovin, Russia boast one of Europe’s most exciting playmakers, who is in fine form after initially struggling at Monaco.
Meanwhile, Artem Dzyuba’s is an authoritative but charismatic captain up front, who set the World Cup alight with his goals and has just led Zenit to league glory in a prolific season. “Every team depends on its leader,” Cherchesov said. “Team Russia has ‘Dzyuba-dependence’. Barcelona has ‘Messi-dependence.'”
The 32-year-old is currently just one goal short of Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s all-time record of 30 goals for the national side and he recently vowed to surpass that tally. “One goal left to tie (Kerzhakov), and two to make history,” he said. “When I scored my first (Russia) goal, I threatened to beat (Kerzhakov’s record). Everybody laughed.”
Russia find themselves matched against Belgium again, but reaching the knockout stages could well prove an uphill task, with Denmark benefitting from a deeper squad. That being said, an upset is certainly not beyond Cherchesov’s side, as they proved so emphatically three years ago.
Here is everything you need to know:
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).
Ones to watch
Star player – Artem Dzyuba: The veteran striker may not be flight of foot, but he scored against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Spain at the 2018 World Cup to become a national icon. The captain of the national side, he scored 20 goals and in 27 appearances as Zenit won the league this season and is a heavy presence for any defender. He has survived managerial changes, behavioural reprimands and most recently lifted the trophy in a Deadpool suit. Safe to say, he can have more than a quiet impact.
Breakout talent – Aleksandr Golovin: The Monaco playmaker is the star of the national side and has been in terrific form at Monaco this season, scoring five goals and adding nine assists in 21 Ligue 1 appearances. A great dribbler capable of breaking up opponent’s defences, he can be the difference.
Cherchesov’s side are enjoying a fine run in qualifying and their talisman, Dzyuba, arrives on the Euro 2020 stage in equally great form. Belgium, though, as already proved, are markedly superior, but Russia should triumph over Finland to set up a tense decider against Denmark. That, however, may prove a hurdle too far. Group stage exit.
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