Manuel Veth –
With less than two months to go the Futbolgrad Network takes a look at the Russian national team, and gauges whether the squad is competitive enough for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
It is always tough to gauge the progress of a host nation ahead of the World Cup or European Championship as they only play friendlies in the preceding couple of years. Coaches tend to experiment with players to try out new combinations before settling on a squad for a tilt at glory, but a glance at how Russia have fared in recent months suggests that manager Stanislav Cherchesov has much work to do if he is to satisfy the home fans next year.
The Sbornaya has not played a competitive game since Euro 2016
The Sbornaya were last seen in competitive action at Euro 2016 and, in a tournament where it was tougher not to qualify for the knockout stage than progress, they finished rock bottom of Group B and failed to reach the round of 16. The one crumb of comfort was a 1-1 draw with England but, with the Three Lions once again putting on a hapless display at a major event, that was not much to write home about.
There rest of 2016 did not see much in the way of positivity for the Russians, who drew 0-0 with Turkey before narrowly beating Ghana but they lost 4-3 at home to Costa Rica and 1-0 away to Qatar – not exactly powerhouses of world football.The year ended with a 1-0 win over Romania but 2017 has seen another disappointing loss to Ivory Coast on home soil.
A 3-3 draw with Belgium will certainly have increased confidence as Roberto Martinez’s side is one tipped to do well should they reach next summer’s World Cup. Form notwithstanding, those who strongly believe Russia will go far in this World Cup may wish to check out the free bet offers at this site for the latest prices and markets.
Russia’s Squad is not packed with household names
In truth though, it must be said that the Russia squad is not packed full of household names and is made up of players who almost exclusively ply their trade in the Russian Football Premier League.While that is of a decent standard and teams do feature in the Champions League, it lacks the competitive edge of the top leagues in Spain, Germany, Italy and England where the best players in the world are on view week in week out.
That is not always a bad thing and it will doubtless forge a togetherness that will be accentuated by the home support during the 2018 showpiece on home soil.
Russia is a proud nation and one that is striving to flex its muscles on the world stage once again and that might be enough to carry them out of the group stage next summer.However with the likes of Spain, France, Germany and Brazil always strong, a quarter-final berth will probably be the limit of their ambitions.
This summer’s Confederations Cup will be crucial to Russia’s preparations and finally give them some meaningful football to play.The hosts will entertain New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico in Group A while Cameroon, Australia, Chile and Germany make up Group B.
It remains to be seen how many star names play for Portugal and Germany but it will still be a real test for the Russians ahead of the World Cup. Host nations do tend to punch above their weight at major tournaments and it would be no surprise to see Russia do the same, but it would seem folly to suggest they can go all the way on the biggest stage.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.