The FIFA Confederations Cup is a preview of what the world’s best nations have on offer before the FIFA World Cup takes place the following year. It is a stage for the best teams to stake serious claims to win the World Cup. This year’s edition takes place in Russia. Ghanafans.com brings you the profile of all 8 teams in the tournament. We focus on host nation Russia, the first profile on the list.
This will be the first time Russia will partake in the FIFA Confederations Cup; as they are the host nation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Head Coach Stanislav Cherchesov takes the ‘Sbornaya’ (‘The National Team’ in Russian) to their first Confederations cup looking to make the nation believe that their team have what it takes to compete at the highest level of international football.
Cherchesov was appointed in August 2016 and it was reported that the Russian Football Association has set a target of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup on home soil. Cherchesov takes charge of his first national team after 12 years of Club management, his last team being Legia Warsaw in Poland.
Russia are ranked 63rd in the world by FIFA; the only team they are ranked higher than in Group A are New Zealand, who are ranked 95th.
They face a tough task in qualifying from Group A where they face EURO 2016 winners Portugal, CONCACAF 2015 winners Mexico and New Zealand; 2015 OFC Nations Cup champions.
Russia have faced Portugal 6 times; winning twice, drawing once and losing three games. The most recent match between the two nations saw Russia winning 1-0 in an international friendly.
Russia have beaten Mexico in both meetings between the two sides, one in 1992 and the other in 1994.
Russia have never faced New Zealand in their history.
The team has seen drastic changes since Euro 2016 in France with Coach Cherchesov making wholesale changes to the squad. The squad includes veterans Igor Akinfeev and Yuri Zhirkov, who are the 4th and 7th most capped Russian internationals respectively. Igor Smolnikov, Roman Shishkin and Dmitri Kombarov, Denis Glushakov survive from the Euro 2016 squad.
Igor Akinfeev in particular will be key to qualifying from group A, the ‘keeper has the most clean sheets in Russian club football history.
Youngsters Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksei Miranchuk will provide creativity and drive in the Russian midfield. Aleksandr Golovin has been lauded as the greatest talent in Russian football since Andrei Arshavin, his recent performances have caught the attention of Arsenal who are reportedly interested in signing the youngster.
Russia’s goal threat comes from FC Krasnodar striker Fyodor Smolov, who ended his Russian Premier league campaign with 18 goals in 22 appearances while also scoring four times in 6 appearances in the Europa league.
This Russian team is nothing to scream about on paper, and realistically they have a slim chance of qualifying from Group A. With Portugal looking like the most dangerous team in the group, Russia will have to battle it out with Mexico for the 2nd spot.
If Igor Akinfeev can pull off the heroics of Euro 2012, Russia have hope and with Aleks Golovin working his magic in midfield; the hope is that star striker Fedor Smolov will prove lethal in front of goal if Russia stand any chance of qualifying from Group A.
Official Confederations Cup squad;
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Arsenal Tula), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow)
Defenders: Georgy Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (FC Rostov), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Shishkin (FC Krasnodar), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Dmitry Tarasov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (FC Rostov), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Ruslan Kambolov (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Alexander Bukharov (FC Rostov), Maxim Kannunikov (Rubin Kazan), Dmitry Poloz (FC Rostov), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar)