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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.

Goalkeepers

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.

Defenders

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.

Midfielders

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.

Forwards

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.

Russian Football News, September 30, 2016

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