Euro 2012 Preview: Russia
The Russians are back again for the European Championships, hoping they can go one step further than they did in 2008 and get to the final. However, this year it is going to be much harder. Having won the tournament once and finishing as runners up three times as the Soviet Union, they are going to have to call upon some of that winning spirit of 1960 to have a remote chance of equalling those feats.
How Did They Qualify?
Having received a somewhat ‘lucky’ draw for the qualifiers,with teams such as Andorra,Slovakia and Macedonia, the only team that could possibly stand in their way were the Republic of Ireland. Having lost away to Slovakia, their following game against Ireland was already being dubbed as a group winner. Both teams knew it and it was the Russians who came out on top with a 3-2 win at Lansdowne Road. The Russians did not lose for the rest of the qualification stages, scoring 17 goals against Andorra (2-0 & 6-0), Armenia (0-0 & 3-1), two 0-0 draws against Macedonia and a bore 0-0 draw in Moscow against Ireland, which put them in the driving seat. A 6-0 win over Andorra in Moscow in the last game gave them the automatic qualification they desired.
Dick Advocaat followed in the footsteps of Guus Hiddink. Even though he lost in his first game against Slovakia on home soil, the “Little General” rallied the troops and secured automatic qualification. Having won many trophies as a player and a coach, including the Europa League with Zenit, DIck will need to bring up all his experience to help the Russians go far in this tournament.
Andrei Arshavin – 30 – Midfielder
Captain and influential midfielder, Arshavin is one of the most experienced players in the team, and was a stand out performer in the 2008 championships. On loan at Zenit from Arsenal, he will need to repeat the fine form from the last tournament, which saw Arsene Wenger fork out £15 million for his services for Russia to make a statement in this tournament.
Roman Palvyuchenko – 30 – Striker
Joint top scorer in Russia’s qualifying group with Alan Dzagoev, Roman never quite got a chance at Spurs and moved to Lokomotiv Moscow in January to ensure he made it to the championships. He seems to have found a bit of form in Russia at the right time, and will look to show his real talents this year.
Igor Akinfeev – 26 – Goalkeeper
This young goalkeeper has been touted for big things for years. Breaking into the CSKA squad at the tender age of 17, he has not looked back and has been first choice ever since. The 26 year old altered his style in 2009 after being accused of letting too many shots go through his legs, and has become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe . Only conceding four goals in 10 games, if Igor can keep his legs closed and dominate between the sticks there is no reason why Russia can’t qualify.
Anyukov V.Berezutsky Ignashevich Zhirkov
Palvyuchenko Arshavin Bilyaletdinov
How far can they go?
With a decent qualifying process and a good squad, I can see Russia coming second, maybe even winning the group. However, no matter where they finish they face a tricky tie in the quarter finals, where they can meet either Holland,Denmark,Germany or Portugal.