With the World Cup 2018 event drawing to a start, the world of sports is buzzing with predictions and hopes. We ourselves have decided to preview several of the teams that will join the upcoming fray and try to elaborate a guide for the rookie and well-seasoned fan alike in divining which teams stand the best chance of clinching the victory. Make sure to flick through the whole series here and here.
Russia, the hosting country, is still facing a rather difficult situation where it is struggling to organise the event. Apart from initial challenges with setting up the stadium, the country has far deeper issues. Caught amid corruption scandals and cost overruns, the country is now facing the threat of hooligans and roaming far-right bands of groups who pose a threat to regular football lovers.
Beyond that grime picture, we try to focus on Russia beyond its role as a host. In its group stage, the country seems to have had a lucky pick, which may propel Russia to the next level of the competition.
Russia’s Qualifying Victory
Russia has had a rather poor track record in football of late. This is not to say that the country has been overwhelmingly unapt at the game, but rather that its latest performance has been subpar. The only reason why Russia qualified is that it has won the bid to host the event.
The country has played 19 games since Euro 2016 and managed to score close victories against Ghana, Romania, Hungary, New Zealand, Dinamo Moscow and the Korea Republic. Meanwhile, the country struggled with finding a purchase up against Argentina, Spain, Brazil, and France.
Overall About the Team
Russia is not without artifice where its future in football is concerned. Igor Akinfeev is one of the country’s most reliable players despite a tendency to occasionally misjudge a situation. More players make an impression in the squad of Russia, including Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin, and Fedor Smolovo. Russia has been focusing on developing a stratagem where the team can alternate between offence and defence in a matter of seconds.
A Chink in the Armor
Still, Russia faces its troubles when it comes to purely game-related terms. The country has been struggling with maintaining a reliable defence for years. The key assets when it comes to defence are Sergey Ignashevich and the Berezutski brothers who are aged 38 and 35 but still playing as some of the best players on the field. The recent losses to some of the world’s better-established teams out there have highlighted the problems Russia faces when it comes to defence.
Pointing the Limelight at the Stars
The question remains then – if Russia is struggling to maintain a good performance on the field, who is then to help the team forge ahead? The answer quickly involves the name of Fedor Smolov, one of Russia’s biggest stars. Aged only 28, Mr Smolov is definitely not Messi or Ronaldo, but he has a reputable track record in the world of Russian football and he also commands the respect of the country’s foremost talents.
Russia Acknowledges its Weaknesses
Russia has definitely not been in denial over its own weaknesses. Analysts have been eager to point out to the breaches into the team’s defence and it has been a most refreshing perspective, even if the comments themselves have been rather negative, to begin with. Consider what Igor Rabiner, a football analyst, commented for Sports Express:
Something needs to be done about the way Russia defend, but nearly all of the defenders Cherchesov has tested after Vasin and Dzhikiya’s injuries have failed to prove their level. What we saw in the March friendlies showed that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, the words of Mr Rabiner cannot be taken as unjustified lambasting and an intentional sullying of Russia’s reputation. Mr Rabiner does feel fondly towards his home team, but he would be rather remiss not to point out to the difficulties and snags that may eventually lead to the downfall of Russia in the upcoming event.
Facing Reality – Russia on the Pitch
Russia has been most fortunate with how it has been drafted and what teams it has faced up to. One of the worst teams in this competitions, although not for lack of talent or skill, Russia will face a milder group stage, leaving the giants of football battle it out among themselves. Russia will have to handle Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and both countries have been drubbed by European powerhouses.
However, even if Russia makes it into the next round it will have to pick from some of our favourites for the title, including Spain, Portugal, and even Iran. All of these teams are quite capable of delivering a severe blow to Russia’s football team that is still trying to find itself.