2018 is a World Cup year, so we have put together a guide for each team in the tournament. We start with group A and the hosts Russia.
Russia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide
Russia have been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.
Russia vs Croatia – Quarter Final, 7th July – Sochi Match Report
Russia Starting XI: 1 Igor Akinfeev, 2 Mario Fernandes, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 6 Denis Cheryshev (10 Fyodor Smolov 67), 7 Daler Kuzyayev, 11 Roman Zobnin, 13 Fyodor Kudriashov, 17 Aleksandr Golovin (9 Alan Dzagoev 102), 19 Aleksandr Samedov (21 Aleksandr Yerokhin 54), 22 Artem Dzyuba (8 Yury Gazinsky 80)
Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko (5 Vedran Corluka 97), 3 Ivan Strinic (22 Josip Pivaric 74), 4 Ivan Perisic (11 Marcelo Brozovic 63), 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic, 9 Andrej Kramaric (8 Mateo Kovacic 88), 10 Luka Modric, 17 Mario Mandzukic, 18 Ante Rebic, 21 Domagoj Vida
Russia 2 Croatia 2
Croatia 4-3 on pens
Russia: Cheryshev 32, Fernandes 115
Croatia: Kramaric 40, Vida 101
Croatia reached the semi-finals by overcoming Russia on penalties after a draining 2-2 draw over 120 minutes in Sochi.
It was the end of the road for the tournament hosts who had gone futrher than most people had expected.
An uneventful first half exploded into life when Denis Cheryshev scored another spectacular goal. But Russia’s advantage lasted for just eight minutes, with Mario Mandzukic setting up Andrej Kramaric for the equaliser.
Croatia dominated possession but could not make their superior quality count. Ivan Perisic went closest in the second half when his shot hit a post and flashed across the goalmouth.
In extra time, Russia tired for the first time in the tournament and Croatia took advanatge from a corner to take the lead and
Brazil-born Mario Fernandes, the last South American left in the tournament, dragged Russia back into the game with a late equaliser. But after Fyodor Smolov had fluffed his opening spot-kick, Fernandes blasted his shot wide to hand the initiative to Croatia, leaving Iave Rakitic to calmly convert the winning penalty.
Matter of fact
Denis Cheryshev finished as Russia’s top scorer in the tournament with four goals.
With minutes of normal time remaining, Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic appeared to have injured a hamstring and looked set to be substituted. But he stayed on for extra time and saved Fyodor Smolov’s penalty in the shoot-out.
Possession (%): 36/64
Goal attempts: 13/17
Attempts on target: 4/10
Pass accuracy (%): 69/81
Distance covered (km): 148/139
Russia vs Spain – Round of 16 Match Report
Russia Starting XI: 1 Igor Akinfeev, 2 Mario Fernandes, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 7 Daler Kuzyayev (21 Aleksandr Yerokhin 97), 11 Roman Zobnin, 13 Fyodor Kudryashov, 17 Aleksandr Golovin, 18 Yuri Zhirkov (14 Vladimir Granat 46), 19 Aleksandr Samedov (6 Denis Cheryshev 61), 22 Artem Dzyuba (10 Fyodor Smolov 65)
Spain Starting XI: 1 David De Gea, 3 Gerard Pique, 4 Nacho (2 Dani Carvajal 70), 5 Sergio Busquets, 8 Koke, 15 Sergio Ramos, 18 Jordi Alba, 19 Diego Costa (17 Iago Aspas 80), 20 Marco Asensio (9 Rodrigo 104), 21 David Silva (6 Andres Iniesta 67), 22 Isco
Spain 1 Russia 1
Russia 4-3 on pens
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was Russia’s shoot-out hero after saving two penalties to knock out Spain and send the hosts through to the quarter-finals.
It was the biggest shock of the tournament, not least because Russia had started nervously and allowed Spain to take an early lead. But Spain then sat back, their passing lacked penetration and they handed Russia a lifeline when Gerard Pique handled at a corner shortly before half-time.
Russia had a gameplan to defend deeply against Spanish possession and the 2010 champions, who surprisingly started without Andres Iniesta, could not find a way to unlock the massed Russian defence.
Spain’s attacking substitutes, including Iniesta, gave them more edge in extra time but Russia held out for the shootout in front of the home crowd.
Matter of fact
Both teams took advantage of new rules to become the first countries to make four substitutions in a World Cup match.
Spain had strong grounds for a penalty in extra time when Pique and Ramos were held at a corner, but their claims were rejected following a VAR consultation,
Possession (%): 74/26
Goal attempts: 25/6
Attempts on target: 6/3
Pass accuracy (%): 90/71
Distance covered (km): 137/146
Russia vs Uruguay (25th June) Match Report
Russia Starting XI: 1 Igor Akinfeev, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Igor Ignashevich, 6 Denis Cheryshev (2 Mario Fernandes 38), 8 Yury Gazinsky (7 Daler Kuzyayev 46), 11 Roman Zobnin, 13 Fyodor Kudriashov, 15 Ali Miranchuk (10 Fyodor Smolov 60), 19 Aleksandr Samedov, 22 Artem Dzyuba, 23 Igor Smolnikov
Uruguay Starting XI: 1 Fernando Muslera, 3 Diego Godin, 6 Rodrigo Betancur (10 Giorgian De Arrascaeta 63), 8 Nahitan Nandez (7 Cristian Rodriguez 73), 9 Luis Suarez, 14 Lucas Torreira, 15 Mateo Vecino, 17 Diego Laxalt, 19 Sebastian Coates, 21 Edinson Cavani (18 Maxi Gomez 90+4), 22 Martin Caceres
Uruguay 3 Russia 0
Uruguay: Suarez 10, Cheryshev 23og, Cavani 90
After edging out lesser opponents in Egypt and Saudi Arabia in their opening two games, Uruguay turned on the style to beat hosts Russia and top their group. It was a more attacked-minded performance from Uruguay, who were helped by the first-half sending-off of Igor Smolnikov.
According to the official figures, Russia covered 98km, compared to 118km and 115km in their first two games
Matter of fact
The 3-0 scoreline was Russia’s biggest World Cup defeat.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez made changes to his starting line-up, brining in a more attack-minded left-back in Doego Laxalt as well as midfielder Lucas Torreira, with Martin Caceres moving to right-back. Laxalt scored Uruguay’s second goal and was fouled by Igor Smolnikov for the Russian’s second yellow card.
Possession (%): 56/44
Goal attempts: 17/3
Attempts on target: 6/1
Pass accuracy (%): 86/82
Distance covered (km): 101/98
Russia vs Egypt (19th June) Match Report
Russia Starting XI: 1 Igor Akinfeev, 2 Mario Fernandes, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 6 Denis Cheryshev (7 Daler Kuzyayev 74), 8 Yury Gazinsky, 11 Roman Zobnin, 17 Aleksandr Golovin, 18 Yuri Zhirkov (13 Fyodor Kudriashov 86), 19 Aleksandr Samedov, 22 Artem Dzyuba (10 Fydor Smolov 79)
Egypt Starting XI: 23 Mohamed El Shenenawy, 2 Ali Gabr, 6 Ahmed Hegazy, 7 Ahmed Fathi, 8 Tarek Hamed, 9 Marwan Mohsen (11 Kahraba 82), 10 Mohamed Salah, 13 Mohamed Abdelshafy, 17 Mohamed Elneny (22 Amr Warda 64), 19 Abdallah Said, 21 Trezeguet (14 Ramadan Sobhi 68)
RUSSIA 3 EGYPT 1
Russia: Fathi 47og, Cheryshev 59, Dzuba 62
Egypt: Salah 73pen
Hosts Russia all but confirmed their place in the knockout stages after recording the best start by a home nation in the history of the tournament.
Emboldened by their 5-0 rout of Saudi Arabia in the opening match, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side came up against a far more organised team in Egypt and struggled to break them down in the first half.
But in a blistering quarter-hour spell at the start of the second half the hosts blow Egypt away with an assured, confident performance that delighted the home crowd in Saint Petersburg.
Egypt looked to talisman Mohamed Salah to bring them back into the game. Although he won and converted a late penalty, Salah was a shadow of the figure seen at Liverpool this season.
Matter of fact
Russia bettered the record of hosts Italy in 1934 by scoring eight goals and conceding one in their first two games (Italy beat USA 7-1 and drew with Spain 1-1).
Mohamed Salah, having missed his side’s opening game while continuing his recovery from the shoulder injury suffered in the Champions League Final, started for Egypt. But he was below-par and clearly not yet fully fit.
Possession (%): 46/54
Goal attempts: 11/13
Attempts on target: 5/8
Pass accuracy (%): 73/78
Distance covered (km): 115/110
Russia vs Saudi Arabia (14th June) Match Report
Can Russia prove the critics wrong and inspire a nation? Match preview available here.
Starting XI: Russia – 1 Igor Akinfeev, 2 Mario Fernandes, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 8 Yuri Gazinsky, 9 Alan Dzagoev (7 Denis Cheryshev 25), 10 Fyodor Smolov (22 Artem Dzuba 60), 11 Roman Zobnin, 17 Aleksandr Golovin, 18 Yuri Zhirkov, 19 Aleksandr Samedov (7 Daler Kuzyaev 64)
Starting XI: Saudi Arabia – 1 Abdullah Al-Mayouf, 2 Osama Hawsawi, 5 Omar Hawsawi, 6 Mohamed Al-Burayk, 7 Salman Al-Faraj, 8 Yahia Al-Sheri (9 Hattan Bahebri 73), 10 Mohamed Al-Sahlawi (20 Muhannad Asiri 85), 13 Yasser Al-Shahrani, 14 Abdullah Otayf (19 Fahad Muwallad 64), 17 Taisir Al-Jassim, 18 Salem Al-Dawsari
RUSSIA 5 SAUDI ARABIA 0
Russia: Gazinzky 12, Cheryshev 43, 90+1, Dzuba 71, Golovin 90+4
Saudi Arabia: none
Hosts Russia recorded the biggest win in a World Cup opening match since Italy in 1934 (7-1), thrashing Saudi Arabia in front of watching state president Vladmir Putin and FIFA dignatories.
Russia had failed to win in their previous seven warm-up games but any fears that the hosts would be embarrassed in front of a global TV audience were dispelled by an early goal as the Russians went on to capitalise on some shocking Saudi defending.
The Saudis, back in the World Cup for the first time since 2006, gifted their opponents too much space and respect in midfield – and Russia took full advantage.
Man of the match
Aleksandr Golovin provided two assists and scored a wonderful free-kick.
Russia’s runaway victory was achieved despite losing their best player, Alan Dzagoev, to a hamstring injury midway through the first half. His replacement, Denis Cherysev, set up the hosts for their comprehensive victory with two well-taken goals.
Possession (%): 40/60
Goal attempts: 13/7
Attempts on target: 7/0
Pass accuracy (%): 78/86
Distance covered (km): 118/105
Russia World Cup Guide
With no qualifiers to play, hosts Russia have been desperately looking for sparring partners to prepare for the 2018 World Cup – even playing a friendly against club side Dynamo Moscow in September 2017. Things only became easier when the top European and South American teams had finished their qualifying campaigns, with Argentina coming to Moscow and Spain visiting Saint Petersburg in November, and friendlies against Brazil and France planned for March.
Stanislav Cherchesov is trying to build a new squad after his predecessor Leonid Slutsky’s unimpressive Euro 2016 outing. In the absence of top-quality players and the departure of a number of the old guard, Cherchesov has had to look increasingly at young talent, although such players are scarce and lack experience. Fans eagerly awaiting next summer’s tournament are more sceptical about the team’s chances than ever before. Qualifying from their group would be seen as a good result for the hosts.
Key Moments in Qualifying
Cherchesov steps in to replace Slutskiy and the team draw 0-0 away to Turkey in his first game.
Russia score two second-half goals to come from behind and earn an impressive 3-3 draw with Belgium at the rebuilt Sochi Olympic Stadium.
The team fails to get out of its group at the Confederations Cup, losing 1-0 to Portugal and 2-1 to Mexico after beating New Zealand 2-0 in the opening game. Despite much speculation Cherchesov retains his job.
Russia concede a late goal from Sergio Aguero and lose 1-0 to Argentina at the reopening of Moscow’s Luzhniki Olympic Stadium, which will host the opening game and the World Cup Final next summer.
Russia World Cup Group
Russia World Cup Friendlies
- 23rd March – Brazil (lost 3-0)
- 27th March – France (lost 3-1)
- 30th May – Austria (lost 1-0)
- 5th June – Turkey (drew 1-1)
Russia World Cup Fixtures
As hosts Russia will kick off the tournament against Saudi Arabia on the 14th of June. Five days later they will play the Mohamed Salah led Egypt, before ending their group stage with a match against Uruguay on the 25th of June.
Stanislav Cherchesov, age 54 (02.09.63)
Appointed in August 2016 on a two-year contract, the former USSR and Russia goalkeeper with 49 caps is a four-time winner of the national championship. He was a key figure for Spartak Moscow in their 1995 Champions League campaign, when they won all six group-stage games, and later won three league titles in Austria with Tirol Innsbruck before ending his playing career back at Spartak. After coaching in Austria he joined Spartak and later worked with Moscow sides Spartak and Dynamo before moving to Poland in 2015 and leading Legia Warsaw to the double.
Igor Akinfeev remains the first-choice keeper and has proved his top-drawer credentials on numerous occasions. Although prone to injuries, versatile box-to-box midfielder Alan Dzagoev is also key.
Akinfeev has more than 100 caps to his name and is closing in on Sergei Ignashevich’s national record of 120 appearances.
Ignashevich, along with Vasili and Alexei Berezutskiy, quit international football and their absence is a major headache for the coach who has had to totally replace his back three.
Born in Russia, Konstantin Rausch emigrated to Germany as a boy but after caps at under-21 level for his adopted homeland the winger opted to play for Russia. Another newcomer is centre-back Georgiy Dzhikiya.
Russia World Cup Squad
Final 23-man squad –
GOALKEEPERS: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow),Vladimir Gabulov (Club Brugge), Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg).
DEFENDERS: Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov (both Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Akhmat Grozny), Sergei Ignashevich, Mario Fernandes (both CSKA Moscow), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg).
MIDFIELDERS: Yuri Gazinskiy (Krasnodar), Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev (both CSKA Moscow), Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev (all Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov (both Spartak Moscow), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal).
FORWARDS: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Aleksei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar).
Russia World Cup Injuries
Zenit St Petersburg forward Aleksandr Kokorin could miss the tournament after rupturing ligaments in his knee.
Centre-back Georgi Dzhikiya has suffered a serious knee injury and could be out of the tournament.
Viktor Vasin could also miss the tournament after suffering a serious knee injury.
Alan Dzagoev has injured what looks to be his hamstring and could miss the rest of the tournament.
The Unanswered Questions
Can the new defence cope?
Victor Vasin, Fedor Kudryashov and Georgiy Dzhikiya have all been criticised for technical mistakes and poor positioning in recent games, but it looks as though Cherchesov sees them as his only defensive options for the World Cup.
Will Igor Akinfeev avoid mistakes in crucial games?
Although undoubtedly Russia’s best goalkeeper, he has made some costly errors at major tournaments such as the 2014 World Cup and 2017 Confederations Cup.
Could Andrei Arshavin be recalled?
No, despite being probably the only Russian player to achieve widespread international recognition in the last 15 years, the 36-year-old is now at Kairat in Kazakhstan. He failed to make the final World Cup squad.
Will Igor Denisiov make a comeback?
As coach of Dynamo, Cherchesov had a run-in with the defensive midfielder which led to Denisov being banished to the reserves. Since becoming national coach, Cherchesov has not considered calling up Denisov, and this has continued as Denisov has failed to make the final squad.
Can the domestic league’s top strikers take their chances in top international games?
The Premier League’s top scorer in 2016 and 2017, Fedor Smolov of Krasnodar and Zenit’s Alexander Kokorin have not shone at international level. They were due to compete for the lone striker position or form an attacking duet but Kokorin is likely out of the tournament with a serious knee injury.
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