Euro 2012 focus on Russia: Advocaat’s men will struggle to match 2008 achievements
Russia kick off their campaign on the opening day against the Czech Republic and must also play hosts Poland and 2004 Champions Greece.
They secured a good boost to their Euro 2012 hopes, after beating Italy 3-0 in Zurich last Friday. That was a big triumph in confidence for the Russians, who head into Group A as favourites for the Euro 2012 group.
The current Russian side topped their qualification group ahead of the Republic of Ireland by two points. It was a campaign in which they were defeated just once along the way.
The Russians have become a very fluid and solid side and many are tipping them to be the dark horses of Poland and Ukraine 2012. Defensively, Russia are set up very well to keep out opposition and other nations will have a hard time breaking them down.
They are a very disciplined outfit, hard-working, but they are not without their touches of flair and creativity going forward either. It will be a familiar looking Russia to those who know them and manager Dick Advocaat will likely not vary much from the settled line-up that he likes to produce in a versatile and highly competitive 4-3-2-1 formation.
The Russians have tasted European glory before, having lifted the trophy back in 1960 (as the then Soviet Union). After topping their qualification group for a major tournament for the first time, Advocaat’s men are in a strong and confident mood and will be already eyeing up a quarter-final place.
Russia went to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 and they will be looking to at least match that feat this time around.
Star Player: Andrei Arshavin
There is good creativity in the side and therefore, the key man in the Russian game plan is going to be the one who can finish their chances. Russia have good options in Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Roman Pavlyuchenko up front, but as the Russians generally just go with one forward, it will be important for support to come.
That will be from Andrei Arshavin, captain of the Russian side, and they need his influence and creativity, the very class which got him noticed by Premier League clubs in the first place. So Russia need Arshavin’s vision in linking up the midfield and attack, as well as joining in the goal-scoring action.
Arshavin has produced some tremendous goals in his career and has the ability and influence to produce at Euro 2012 and drive the national side on.
Rising Star: Alan Dzagoev
There is a crop of players in the Russia side that Premier League fans will recognise, primarily the former Arsenal man Andrei Arshavin. Other familiar names come in the form of Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak, who made a big impact in a short time at Fulham last season.
However, the jewel in the Russian crown is the creative force of the side, Alan Dzagoev, who plays for CSKA Moscow. The youngster has won accolades since bursting onto the scene back in the 2008/09 season and was instrumental in not only creating chances, but also taking his own during qualification.
He will occupy that space between midfield and attack and a lot of the final balls will come through the attacking midfielder. Expect him to be one of the names that top European clubs will be eyeing up after the tournament. Fantastic with the ball at his feet and fantastic vision and range in his passing.
Manager: Dick Advocaat
In Dick Advocaat, they have experience, technical and tactical knowledge. The former Netherlands coach has been around the block in international management. He has had two spells in full charge with the Dutch national sides and has further experience with the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Belgium and now Russia on the international scene.
Advocaat, known as the Little General, will step down from the role at the end of Euro 2012 to take up a position with PSV Eindhoven in Holland.
The Russians look a very confident side and will therefore be a threat to even some of the more fancied teams at the 2012 European Championships. Russia have got better and better under Advocaat and should take Group A over Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic.
However, in topping the group they would then most likely be up against the Netherlands or Germany in a quarter-final match. Either of those opponents may be a bridge too far for them this time around.