Euro 2012: Spotlight on Russia
- Posted by Mark Booth
It’s a huge ask for Russia to match their run to the semi-final at Euro 2008 but their combination of youth and experience make them a tough proposition for the best of them.
Russia will play with a conventional 4-3-3 with the three in the middle made up on a couple of ball winners and a playmaker – probably Roman Shirokov who enjoyed a magnificent Champions League campaign, scoring five goals for Zenit from midfield.
Coach Dick Advocaat will call upon familiar (but tricky to spell) names such as Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov but have a few aces in the pack, such as exciting youth prospect Alan Dzagoev and former boxer Aleksandr Kokorin.
Ok, he was Georgian but Manchester City legend Gio Kinkladze, or Kinky, as he was lovingly known, did play in the Russian league with Rubin Kazan before he hung up his boots in 2006.
Kinkladze travelled far and wide in his diverse playing career but there’s nowhere he’s remembered more fondly than at Manchester City where he dazzled supporters in a three-year spell in the mid-90s.
The nineties were rather a bleak decade for City supporters littered with relegations but the performances of the 5ft 9in midfielder elevated the club above the gloom of even their darkest hours.
Few will forget the tears shed by the Georgian as City were faced with the agony of relegation to Division One in 1996 but fewer will forget the goal he scored against Southampton that season where he jinked past five defenders before his impudent chip over Dave Beasant.
In total, Kinky racked up 119 appearances for City and 22 goals before he moved on to Ajax when City fell into Division Two.
Former Rangers coach Dick Advocaat is a safety-first type of coach who will have his team well drilled to keep things tight and to hit the opposition on the break.
Advocaat has big shoes to fill after taking over from Guus Hiddink but he has a talented group of players to choose from and a group draw that couldn’t have been much kinder.
One to watch
CSKA midfielder Alan Dzagoev is seen as the great white hope of Russian football and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this could be his tournament to shine.
Former Russia Coach Guus Hiddink has praised the playmaker’s eye for a pass but the 21-year old is also a skilful, quick, intelligent footballer who has been courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Still technically an Arsenal player, Arshavin has managed to kick-start his stalling career since rejoining Zenit on loan in January. The cheeky-faced winger has always managed to save his best form for his national team, so underestimate him this summer at your peril.
Odds via Paddy Power: 20/1
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow), Vyacheslav Malafeyev (Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow)
Defenders: Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Kirill Nababkin (CSKA Moscow)
Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Alan Dzagoyev (CSKA Moscow), Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Marat Izmailov (Sporting), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)
Forwards: Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham).
Next up: Gael Clichy and Croatia's chances are weighed up as our Euro 2012 coverage continues.
Come along and enjoy Euro 2012 at City Square, the only outdoor venue in Manchester showing the England matches. We are kicking off with England’s opening match against France on June 11, with City Square open from 2:30pm.
There will be free giveaways from the CityStore and EA, parking is free and The Summerbee Bar, Blue Moon Café and Star Bar will all be open.
Tickets are priced at £5 for adults and £3 for kids and are available now from the box office - advance purchase only.