Skip to content

European Championship in focus: Spotlighting Russia

May 28, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

russia

Privyet (привет), and welcome to glorious picture of Russian soccer future. Were this 2004, we would say in Soviet Russia, preview predicts you, but since internet meme died quicker than Russian democratic party, we say post is picture of motherland’s future greatness. Poka!

Man that matters:

Igor Afkineev: Two years ago, the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper transcended “nerd favorite” to “recognizable name” thanks to his Champions League performances against Manchester United. Since, he’s spurned approaches from Europe’s big boys, tore up his knee in a Moscow derby against Spartak, and returned in time to bolster a Russian defense that will be missing one of its key contributors (Vasili Berezutskiy out with a thigh injury).

For an elite goalkeeper, Akinfeev is on the smallish side (6’1″), and while he can competently command his area, he’s not going to dominate balls in the air. But what he lacks in physicality Akinfeev makes up for in reflexes and recognition.

He’s a younger, less appreciated Iker Casillas, part of the reason he’s now being linked with Chelsea.

First-round games:

June 8: vs. Czech Republic (Warsaw, Poland)
June 12: vs. Poland (Warsaw, Poland)
June 16: vs. Greece (Warsaw, Poland)

Foursome of knowledge:

  • After ousting the Netherlands in the 2008 championships, Russia served a brief period as Europe’s darlings, with Andrei Arshavin becoming the tournament’s breakout star. Russia would make the semifinals, their best finish since the Soviet Union broke up (the USSR did won inaugural tournament in 1960).
  • The last go around, Russia was led by head coach Guus Hiddink. Hiddink, as he’s genetically predisposed to do, moved on (after failing to qualify Russia for the 2010 World Cup), and as is ordained in every contract Hiddink signs, he must be succeeded by Dick Advocaat. But rather than lull in his trailblazer’s wake, Advocaat has restored some of Russia’s bite. Another semifinal appearances is possible, though they’ll need to spring one upset to make it that far.
  • Even in the absence of Berezutskiy, Russia is in the enviable position of having a back four highly acquainted with each other. (From right to left) Alexsandr Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich, Alexsei Berezutskiy (Vasili’s twin brother), and Yuri Zhirkov are all between 28 and 32 and have each accumulated between 46 and 73 caps. All except Anyukov have had long spells at CSKA, something which helps Akinfeev’s organization.
  • But just like 2008, Russia’s status as upstarts may depend on Andrei Arshavin. While most people have come to know him as the guy who seems a ill-fit for Arsenal’s left wing, Arshavin has resumed his centrally deployed, playmaking self thanks to a loan stint with Zenit St. Petersburg. In 11 games with the Russian champions, Arshavin scored three and set up four, filling in after Zenit’s best player (Portuguese playmaker Danny) tore up his knee. Perhaps Arshavin won’t be as good as he was in 2008, but he’ll be ready.

Where they are going:

Russia should win Group A, but it won’t be easy. All of the Czech Republic, Greece and Poland have capable sides, and given some of the disappointments Russia has had in recent history (losing their two-legged playoff with Slovenia for a spot at the 2010 World Cup), the team’s shown themselves capable of shrinking from the occasion. In Poland, memories of Slovenia will serve the team well, pushing them to a strong group performance.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow), Vyacheslav Malafeev (Zenit St. Petersburg)

Defenders: Aleksandr Anyukov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Aleksei Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow), Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Kirlll Nabakin (CSKA Moscow)

Midfielders: Roman Shirokov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Igor Denisov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Marat Izamailov (Sporting CP), Igor Shemshov (Dynamo Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow)

Forwards: Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham), Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal), Aleksandr Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Zenit St. Petersburg)

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Latest Posts
  1. The stingiest squad gets stronger: Vermaelen returns to Barca’s top La Liga D

    Apr 27, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    Thomas Vermaelen AP

    The 29-year-old Belgian center back joins a unit which has conceded just 19 goals in La Liga play, the best total in the league by six goals.

  2. Eden Hazard joins “freestyle” video, calls rabona off crossbar, walks away in victory (video)

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    Hazard AP

    Hazard is now the PFA’s reigning Player of the Year. We doubt very much this video will make his peers think they voted incorrectly.

  3. Not even allowed an appeal: CONCACAF confirms Bush suspension for Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT

    America v Montreal Impact - CONCACAF Champions League Getty Images

    Backup keeper Erik Kronberg is ineligible for the competition since he was a part of Sporting KC earlier in the tournament.

  4. Newcastle legend Shearer takes aim at players, Magpies “mess”; Carver asks for protection

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    The headlines aren’t being kind to Newcastle on Monday morning, and it seems their manager is sick of his players’ performance and grief from supporters.

  5. MLS progress report: Checking in on the East-West supremacy battle

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:08 AM EDT

    Cristian Higuita, Diego Chara AP

    True to form, the West is leading. Perhaps not to expectations, but leading nonetheless.

  6. Premier League Playback: Chelsea brilliant, not boring, as title inches closer

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at Week 34 in the PL.

  7. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Find out which club put forth a performance that was second to none in Round 34 of the Premier League.

  8. MLS official squashes rumor of emergency intra-MLS goalkeeper loan for CONCACAF Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Andrea Pisanu, Sean Johnson, AP

    A potential week-long loan of Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the Montreal Impact for this Wednesday’s second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America is not going to happen.

  9. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week — Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPTViMDJlZDhlYjcxNDdmN2UxMmYxZTdlMDRmNjAxNzM1 Getty Images

    Find out whose star shone above the rest in the Premier League this weekend.

  10. 10 things you should know about Premier League new boys Watford

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Thumbs Up Thumbs Up

    Elton John. American skippers and Harry Potter. Get to know the Hornets ahead of their PL return.

  11. Rodgers unsure whether Sturridge will return for Liverpool this season

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Sturridge and Luis Suarez registered 52 PL goals last season. Liverpool as a team has 47 this season.

  12. MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    Final: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

  13. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal uncertain over Wayne Rooney’s knee injury

    Apr 26, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    Louis van Gaal & Wayne Rooney, Manchester United Louis van Gaal & Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

    Louis van Gaal unaware of the seriousness of Wayne Rooney’s injury sustained during a 3-0 loss to Everton.

  14. Bayern Munich clinches 25th Bundesliga title due to VfL Wolfsburg’s loss

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen - Training & Press Conference Getty Images

    Bayern Munich will enjoy the title as Germany’s best once again.

  15. Sunderland’s Connor Wickham hopes to slip out of closely contested relegation zone

    Apr 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    connor_wickham Getty Images

    Sunderland midfielder Connor Wickham is eyeing Premier League survival as the last month of the 2014-15 season arrives.

Featured video

Should Chelsea be more entertaining?