Russia v Costa Rica: Squad Evaluation
by Martin Lowe
Russia's upcoming friendly with Costa Rica in Krasnodar represents the
second opportunity for new coach Stanislav Cherchesov to assemble his
national team squad camp since he took over the hot seat from Leonid Slutsky
after Russia's Euros exit this summer. After hardly the most enthralling
performances against Turkey and Ghana to kick start his reign at the beginning
of the month, Cherchesov has made a couple of tweaks to his initial squad
selection while continuing to disregard the widely unpopular duo of Aleksandr
Kokorin and Pavel Mamaev.
An initial reaction to the squad announcement is the lack of overseas
born nationals who had slowly been integrated into the team over the last
year. Brazilian born goalkeeper Guilherme wasn't considered in Cherchesov's
first squad, so his non-inclusion isn't too much of surprise, but recently
nationalised Roman Neustadter (Fenerbache) have surprisingly been overlooked.
Given the RFU's willingness to engage further down the route of granting
Russian passports to worthy foreign players of late, it's a strange reverse
in policy seemingly directed by the coach, but no doubt a welcome one
to large parts of the country (and squad for that matter) who have widely
criticised the recent call ups.
Igor Akinfeev, Stanislav Kritsyuk & Soslan Dzhanaev
Cherchesov has kept faith with the same selection of goalkeepers from
the last international window, continuing to overlook Zenit's Yuri Lodygin
and Lokomotiv's Guilherme who had warmed the bench in France. Experimentation
on the pitch was kept to a minimum last month with Akinfeev playing every
minute of the friendly matches against Turkey and Ghana, but you'd assume
at some point Cherchesov will like to give one of his understudies an
outing given both their form of late.
Vasily Berezutsky, Yuri Zhirkov, Igor Smolnikov, Roman Shishkin, Ivan
Novoseltsev, Andrei Semenov, Fyodor Kudryashov, Sergei Petrov, Ilya Kutepov
& Viktor Vasin (on standby).
An area which Cherchesov will want to nail down quickly is that of central
defence, primarily in finding a partner for Vasily Berezutsky. With Sergei
Ignashevich's retirement over the summer, the central defensive partner
of Sbornaya's captain is the most up for grabs at present. A back three
was rolled out in Antalya against Turkey, using two men with a wealth
of experience in that system; Rostov's Kudruashov and ex-Rostov now Zenit
man Novoseltsev utilised alongside Berezutsky, while against Ghana they
reverted back to a traditional back four with Terek's Andrei Semenov taking
up the second role.
With no big changes to the defensive selection, the starting line-up and
more importantly system deployed against Costa Rica should illustrate
how Russia plan to design their whole team going forward.
Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Samedov, Oleg Shatov, Magomed Ozdoev, Aleksey
Miranchuk, Roman Zobnin, Yuri Gazinsky, Aleksandr Erokhin & Pavel
Mogilevets (on standby).
No extra inclusions from last time out, unless you count the strange addition
of Pavel Mogilevets on standby despite having not featured for Zenit this
season, so again it'll be a case of Cherechesov running the rule over
who can fit into what system. With Dmitri Tarasov missing out through
injury, further opportunities will likely come the way of Alan Dzagoev
in what seems his now preferred deeper role, and Roman Zobnin who has
immediately become a regular at Spartak since his summer switch from Dinamo.
Artyom Dzyuba, Fedor Smolov & Maksim Kanunnikov
The big headline in the attacking department is Aleksandr Kokorin's continual
absence from the squad, while Dmitri Poloz who bagged a brace in Europe
midweek for Rostov is also left out. From the last round of friendlies,
it looks like Fedor Smolov is the man currently in possession of the number
9 jersey, but it's more than feasible Cherechesov will grant Dzyuba his
first start under the manager's stewardship.
It's an ongoing debate amongst the Russian fan base whether Sbornaya should
go with the Zenit target man over the Krasnodar poacher. The selection
against Costa Rica could give us the clearest of ideas of how Cherechesov's
Russia will look going forward.
The Big Questions
The two areas in need of most clarification in this current squad are
in central defence and in terms of attacking creativity. Both will probably
be answered once Cherechesov has decided on his preferred formation. If
he goes for 3 at the back, the selection of Novoseltsev seems immediate
and a narrower attack will likely be accommodated, while if he selects
a more traditional 4-2-3-1, a centre back such as Semenov and a wide attacking
player such as Samedov could be used.
With only one match scheduled in the upcoming window, it leaves very limited
time to test out Cherechesov continuingly evolving plans.
News, September 30, 2016