Euro 2020 profile: where’s Russia’s next gen?

by | Jun 9, 2021 11:58 | Editorial, Euro 2020

12 June – Belgium (8pm GMT, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg)

16 June – Finland (2pm GMT, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg)

21 June – Denmark  (8pm GMT, Parken Stadium, Copenhagen)

 Despite making it to Euro 2020, Russia still rely too much on the aging core that took them to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2018. Vilizar Yakimo warns that has to change…

Where is the next gen?

Prior to Russia’s sensational run to the quarter-finals at the 2018 World Cup, Sbornaya – the National Team – was heavily criticised by both fans and media as the team was underachieving for a number of years.

Inevitably the 2018 heroics led to a major increase of the enthusiasm and expectations surrounding the team and the truth is Russia seemed impressive for a while. Sbornaya were highly impressive during the 2019 qualification campaign, as Stanislav Cherchesov’s men were outclassed only by Belgium and earned a deserved second place in their group.

In all honesty none of Russia’s other opponents showed the needed quality back then, but nevertheless Sbornaya were heavily praised for cruising past Scotland, Kazakhstan, Cyprus and San Marino. Qualifying for the Euro finals was a must, while eight victories and the two Belgium defeats seemed like a solid enough record at the time, the delay to Euro 2020, as well as Cherchesov’s conservative approach when integrating young blood puts Sbornaya in a tricky place now.

The 37-year-old ex-Chelsea wide man, Yuri Zhirkov, is still an irreplaceable figure, but is now even closer to retirement, while other ageing players like Artem Dzyuba, Fedor Kudyashov and Andrey Semenov are still an integral part of the team. To make matters worse, influential right-back Mario Fernandes suffered a hip injury and while he is still part of the Russia squad, will struggle to be at full fitness.

Even at 32, Dzyuba has been quite impressive and is still showing his worth, as the 196-cm-tall striker has scored 13 goals for Sbornaya since 2018, while he also netted 21 times for Zenit St Petersburg this term. He has also shrugged off a social media controversy that saw him lose the captain’s armband for the national team. However, the overall feeling is that Cherchesov has failed to integrate the next generation in the team and younger players often fail to provide an impact.

Two of Russia’s brightest talents, Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksei Miranchuck made high-profile moves to Monaco and Atalanta following the 2018 World Cup, but 25-year-old Golovin started only 14 times for the French side, while Miranchuk, who is also 25, is mainly warming up the bench in Bergamo.

On the other hand the likes of Daler Kuzyaev and Roman Zobnin failed to complete transfers abroad. This guarantees them regular playing time, but at the same time has damaged their growth.

Despite all that, all of them have the quality and can make the difference for Sbornaya but they are failing to deliver on a regular basis and the general feeling is that Cherchesov can do more to help them. Constant change of formation, tactical inconsistencies and a general lack of balance mean that the 57-year-old is under intense scrutiny once again, after managing to win over his doubters back in 2018.

Russia’s form has decreased rapidly since their qualifying campaign in 2019 with only two victories out of eight games in 2020, including a hammering 5-0 defeat against Serbia. 2021 started with two victories in the World Cup qualifiers, but those were followed by a disappointing defeat against Slovakia, so at the moment consistency is lacking.

At the upcoming tournament, Sbornaya are in what seems to be a balanced Group B with Denmark, Finland and the nemesis from their qualifying campaign, Belgium. Putting the Red Devils aside, Cherchesov’s men seem capable of holding their own against any opponent, but their recent struggles and lack of progress suggest that another deep run in a major tournament seems unlikely.

Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov — The Algerian-born tactician needs to find the right mix between experience and youth if he wants to repeat Sbornaya’s heroics from the 2018 World Cup, as he tends to over-trust the old guard. Russia has some bright talents coming through and it’s up to Cherchesov to find more room for them.

Preferred XI: Shunin; Karavaev, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Zhirkov; Miranchuk, Ozdoev; Kuzyaev; Golovin, Cheryshev, Dzyba.

Although Cherchesov often changes his line-up, 4-2-3-1 seems to be his preferred formation, as it allows him to field most of his talented attackers. However, Sbornaya tend to leave spaces at the back, so finding balance would be key for their chances.

Look out for: Talismanic captain Artem Dzyuba needs just one more goal to equal Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s all-time record of 30 strikes for Sbornaya, so all eyes will be on the 32-year-old forward.

Russia Euro 2020 squad

Goalkeepers: Yuri Dyupin (Rubin), Matvei Safonov (Krasnodar), Anton Shunin (Dinamo Moscow)

Defenders: Igor Diveev (CSKA Moscow), Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Vyacheslav Karavaev (Zenit), Fedor Kudryashov (Antalyaspor), Andrei Semenov (Akhmat)

Midfielders: Dmitri Barinov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Valencia), Daniil Fomin (Dinamo Moscow), Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit), Andrei Mostovoy (Zenit), Maksim Mukhin (CSKA Moscow), Magomed Ozdoev (Zenit), Rifat Zhemaletdinov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow)

Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit), Aleksei Ionov (Krasnodar), Denis Makarov (Rubin), Aleksei Miranchuk (Atalanta), Aleksandr Sobolev (Spartak Moscow), Anton Zabolotny (CSKA Moscow)

Russia versus…

Belgium P 12 W 4 D 2 L 6 F 17 A 21

Finland P 18 W 12 D 5 L 1 F 55 A 13

Denmark P 12 W 10 D 1 L 1 F 31 A 9

Stats

Population: 145.95m

Nickname: Sbornaya

Top division: Premier League

FIFA World Ranking: 38

International honours: European Championship (1960)

Most capped player: Sergei Ignashevich (127)

Leading international scorer: Aleksandr Kerzhakov (30)

Russia at the European Championships:

1960 – Champions (as Soviet Union)

1964 – Runners-up

1968 – Fourth place

1972 – Runners-up

1976 – Did not qualify

1980 – Did not qualify

1984 – Did not qualify

1988 – Group Stage

1996 – Group Stage

2000 – Did not qualify

2004 – Group stage

2008 – Semi-finals

2012 – Group Stage

2016 – Group Stage

How they got to Euro 2020: Russia finished second in Group I registering eight wins and only two defeats, both against group winners Belgium.

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