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Euro 2012 Team Preview: Russia
Russia won the first ever European Championship title in 1960, back then when they were still playing as the mighty Soviet Union. But it was only a one-title deal for the Russians, who since then never won the trophy again. Three runner-up finishes and two semi-final appearances including the most recent Euro 2008 are telling of the struggles this Easter European giant had to undertake year-in year-out.
A strong line-up composed of experienced players and a solid qualification run makes this team a top contender for group A. A few pundits however bemoan the lack of novelty in a side that arguably needed to experiment while it still can. With other top European contenders evolving efficiently to the modern game, the lack of new things for the team could prove fatal to Russia’s hopes to bring the title home once again – this summer might just become the tragic wake-up call to the Russians.
Dick Advocaat has plenty of options with regards to his personnel, including established European names in Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Yuri Zhirkov, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. Pavlyuchenko specifically, is a proven marksman insofar as his international performance is concerned. The 30-year old striker is one of the 10 players able to score a hat-trick in the qualifying round of Euro 2012 – a 3-1 individual demolition of Armenia last June.
Fans will look to ‘established names’ but if there’s one man who could make difference after difference this summer, it’s Alan Dzagoev. Young and brimming with confidence, the 21-year old midfielder is Russia’s Best Young Player. In Advocaat’s preferred 4-3-2-1, Dzagoev is expected to pair-up with Arshavin to support the formation’s lone striker and score goals himself from midfield.
Russia needed to maneuver a tricky qualifying group in order to reach the Euro Finals this summer. In the early stages of qualifying – specifically in their second game – Russia suffered a shocking home loss to Slovakia. Fortunately, the Eastern European giants bounced back in style and booked their ticket to Poland by tallying 23 points of the possible 30, edging out groupmates and fellow hopefuls Republic of Ireland.
Advocaat doesn’t like to shuffle his players a lot, so don’t expect surprise call-ups and lavishly-experimental starting XIs this summer. As it stands, the Dutch manager could line his forces in a ‘pyramid’ – a 4-3-2-1 – with Dzagoev and Arshavin as attacking midfielders. Yuri Zhirkov, as expected, will be looking to do damage from the flanks.
Advocaat also has the likes of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Roman Pavlyuchenko – two players he can utilize at the same time in a 4-4-2. This could force Aleksandr Kerzhakov to move to one of the flanks where his crosses can be lethal for the two tall forwards should he decide to play with size against opposition defenses.
Russia is not a team most pundits would expect to lift the trophy this year; but they do possess the quality to do just that anyway. They are at a pre-tournament 20/1 to lift the trophy after all’s been said and done.
The team is a proven side, but in an unassuming group where everything possible goes, they could bow out of the tournament as early as the group stages (13/8 to not make it to the knockout stages). As far as a number of factors are considered, this tournament doesn’t look like it will sway to Russia’s favor.
All odds are from Bet365.com (£200 FREE BET!).