World Cup 2018 Preview: Russia

If Russia can advance from the group stage for the first time in their history, many would consider it a successful tournament.

Nickname(s): Sbornaya (The National Team)

Best Finish: Group stage (1994, 2002, 2014)

How they qualified: Russia earned their spot the moment that FIFA approved their bid to host the event. Fortunately for them, a recent FIFA rule allowed the hosts to take part in the qualification process through a series of friendlies, providing Russia with the opportunity to exorcise a poor showing at Euro 2016 where they finished bottom of their group.

Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov

Cherchesov played for Russia at the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, as well as Euro 96. As a coach, he has managed five different Russian clubs, winning nothing, and lasting no longer than two seasons with each. Most of his silverware as a player arrived during the Soviet era with Spartak Moscow and in the 2000s with Austrian club Tirol Innsbruck. As a coach, his success as only been recent, winning the domestic double with Legia Warsaw in 2016, an achievement that landed him the national team position.

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Key Man: Alan Dzagoev

The mercurial midfielder burst onto the scene in 2008 in his debut season with CSKA Moscow and won the league’s “Best Young Player” award, making his club debut at the age of 18 years and 116 days – the youngest ever outfield player for Russia, and the second youngest overall, only behind captain and goalkeeping stalwart Akinfeev. At 26, Dzagoev is in his prime years as a player and if he’s switched on, he can be a match-winner. An undisclosed injury ruled him out of the Confederations Cup, but he’s still a major part of the plans for 2018.

Opening fixtures:

14 June vs Saudi Arabia

19 June vs Egypt

25 June vs Uruguay

Squad: TBD

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