Euro 2016 team-by-team guide: Everything you need to know Russia
Kevin Palmer gives us the lowdown on the Russia.
Group B fixtures
June 11th: England in Marseille
June 15th: Slovakia in Lille
June 20th: Wales in Toulouse
COACH: Leonid Slutsky
It says much about the lack of quality performers available to coach Slutsky that the Russian soccer federation have opened the door to outsiders to join their party ahead of Euro 2016, with what they describe as their ‘naturalizatsiya’ programme brining fresh options moving forward.
This tactician doubles as CSKA Moscow boss and he heads into Euro 2016 after a reasonably impressive qualifying run that saw them edge Sweden out of the second automatic qualifying place. Slutsky was credited for getting the best out of a Russia squad looking for new heroes and his 4-2-3-1 formation will promote a cautious approach this summer. He has been nicknamed the ‘Russian Mourinho’ in his homeland.
STAR MAN: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow)
A star turn at the Euro 2012 finals, this midfield star appeared to be on his way to the big-time after he finished as joint top scorer with three goals, alongside big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Balotelli and Fernando Torres.
Links with a move to Premier League clubs ultimately failed to materialize and he has remained in Russian football, with his reputation on the international stage enhanced by some solid performances in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Once a playmaker, he is now being deployed by coach Slutsky as a holding midfielder and he is excelling in a role that will be crucial as Russia look to frustrate their opponents in France.
LOOK OUT FOR: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg)
Russia’s leading scorer during their Euro 2016 qualifying programme, this powerful striker will lead the line in France and he is likely to be asked to do a lot of chasing as he may find himself a little isolation in the final third at times.
Previously with Spartak Moscow, Dzyuba will be looking for wide men Aleksandr Kokorin and Oleg Shatov to provide the ammunition for the leading goal hope for Russia at Euro 2016 to flourish.
WILD CARD: Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg)
A major international tournament is not complete without a Russian footballer boasting an uncomfortable name for TV commentators and this attacking star assumes the mantle for Euro 2016.
Considered to be one of the most technically accomplished players in the Russian league, Shatov has become a firm favourite of national team head coach Slutsky. He may have some defensive responsibilities on the right side of the Russian team as they look to plot a path through to the knock-out phase of this summer’s tournament.
VERDICT: Expectations are reasonably low for Russia as they head into Euro 2016, with their ageing defensive line considered to be a weak spot that is likely to be exposed by Europe’s most dynamic attacking sides.
The plus side must be that they find themselves in an opening group that features a couple of untested teams and that could give a highly experienced Russian side the chance to get a foothold in the tournament. Goals may be in short supply, so they will need to make the most of their chances or may well find themselves heading home earlier than planned.