SURPRISE quarter finalists at Euro 2008 Russia have many of the same players from that tournament, and will be relying on their experience to get through the group stages.
Seen as the strongest team in their group they’ll be expecting to qualify and could set up a quarter final rematch against Holland, which they’ll be confident about, having knocked them out 4 years ago.
Dutch coach Dick Advocaat has managed the transition well from previous Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. Advocaat know the players well, from his successful spell at Zenit St Petersburg when he won the Uefa Cup. The coach oversaw a very successful qualifying campaign finishing top of their group and remaining unbeaten throughout.
Since becoming a star at Euro 2008 Andrei Arshavin’s career has not shined as bright as many were expecting after a promising first 12 months. The Arsenal attacker, currently on loan at Zenit, was often criticised by fans who claimed he was overweight and too lazy. He wasn’t at his best in qualifying either, having failed to score a goal but if he can find his form and hunger the captain could still play an important part for the Russians.
One to watch
Top scorer in qualifying with 4 goals, and his country’s youngest ever capped player, attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev will look to drift in from the wing to provide creativity and goals. Currently nursing an injury picked up earlier in the season, Dzagoev has been included in the squad but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit enough to reach his best form in time for the tournament.
Why they could have a good tournament...
Russia have an experienced side while many of their players have played together for years, either for the national side or for club sides CSKA Moscow and Zenit. They are also quite underrated at the back having only conceded 4 goals in qualifying. Of all four sides in group A, they certainly have the most quality to advance to quarter finals.
Why they could have a bad tournament...
Despite a strong qualifying campaign scoring goals remains a worry having only scored 11 times in 9 qualifying games (6 of those being against Andorra in the final game). Part of the reason is because Advocaat is quite conservative with his tactics while many claim Russia’s possession is often too passive and considered not to be threatening enough.