Semi-finalists in the 2008 edition of the UEFA European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, Russia will be looking to go one step further this time around with Dick Advocaat in charge. Failure to make the cut for the 2010 FIFA World Cup resulted in the sacking of Guus Hiddink, and the appointment of Advocaat – a decision by the Russian Football Union that has brought life back into the nation’s hopes of a successful campaign, and the team back on track.
Advocaat’s men topped Group B in qualifying, suffering just the one defeat at the hands of Slovakia on home soil. Accumulating a total of 23 points, the Russians ended their campaign is some style with a 6-0 demolition of Andorra en route the tournament proper. Benefitting from the kind draw, Russia’s record against their opponents in Group A of Euro 2012 is formidable, having not lost a single game against either nation at the finals of the competition.
Captained by the enigmatic Andrey Arshavin, the team boasts of a threatening attack that can make their opponents pay on the counter. The slick and quick Alan Dzagoev is an emerging talent attracting interest from powerhouses across Europe, and his quality coupled with his hunger for goals could prove instrumental for the Russians this summer. Further up the pitch, Alexander Kerzhakov, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak offer different dimensions to the coach. However, only one of them will make the starting line up to accommodate Advocaat’s style of play.
With Igor Akinfeev in goal and a relatively reliable defence, the experience of the two Igor’s in midfield – Semshov and Denisov will help calm things down and build from the back. There is no doubt about their status as group favourites, however, the Russians need to be in full flight during the latter stages of the competition against the bigger boys. The pace and trickery of Arshavin and Dzagoev, and the sheer goal-scoring instincts of their strikers make Russia a force to be reckoned with.