Russia’s FIFA World Cup team came through the qualifying rounds as winners in Group F, beating out perennial underachievers Portugal. The Russian’s did very well under the authoritative rule of Coach Fabio Capello, letting in just 5 goals in the qualifying campaign.This is a coach with much to prove after a stint as England manager that ended in disappointment in the 2010 World Cup.
Capello’s approach is perhaps better suited to his new squad, full of players that are talented, but lesser known on the world’s footballing stage. Aside from 22 year-old Denis Cheryshev who plays in Spain at Seville, on loan from Real Madrid, the entire team plays their football in Russia. The Russian Premier League is a very competitive league, with several powerhouse clubs that do well in European football, but as a domestic league there is far less interest than there is in the English, Spanish and German leagues.
Capello’s relationship with some of the more elite English players was famously turbulent, the Italian viewing many of that squad as prima donnas.It is this sense of remaining under the radar, coupled with Capello’s proven talent as a manager, at least at club level, that has caused some to view the Russian’s as one of the possible surprises yet to emerge from the tournament this summer.
On paper they look set to make it out of the preliminary round having been placed in one of the “easier” groups, if such a thing exists. Group H consists of seeded team Belgium, Algeria and South Korea. Most odds have Russia placing second behind Belgium, and making it into the anything goes round of 16.On the field, the Russian’s are led by Igor Denisov, a talented and gritty midfielder who has played for the big clubs in Russia, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala and Dynamo Moscow. Denisov impressed as a member of the of the 2012 Euro Cup team, and is the personification of Capello’s philosophy. Denisov is a determined personality that expects only the best from himself, and team mates. He was appointed Captain after Andrei Arshavin was stripped of the title following the exit of the Russians from the Euro tournament. Arshavin may feature yet for the Russians in the World Cup, having dazzled at 2010 tournament, but the captaincy will most likely remain with Denisov.
Upfront, Russia’s firepower comes in the form of Aleksander Kerzhakov, who recently broke the Russian domestic goal record with 208 career goals. Kerzhakov is in the type of goalscoring form every manager wants when entering a tournament. At 31 years of age, he brings maturity to his game, which can translate to composure in front of goal.Capello has led teams in the past that have seemed dragged down by the weight of great hyp. Perhaps this squad, unfettered by inflated egos and expectations can deliver for the Italian on the world stage.
Russia’s World Cup odds currently sit at 66-1, and considering everything going on with the Ukraine right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their odds increase. If a full brown war broke out between these to two countries, I doubt their fans would be that focused on the World Cup, and with less bets coming in, their odds would be sure to rise. So I guess if you like this team to win it all, I would suggest waiting to bet for now away.
And although I doubt it would happen, it looks like the Ukraine has asked FIFA to expel Russia from the World Cup. FIFA tends to avoid politics at all costs, so I wouldn’t bet on this happening… but in the world of soccer, you never know.