by Tom Lees - 23rd February 2016
Leonid Slutsky will be hoping for strong performances in France from his experienced players
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
It’s the turn of Russia today, with the upcoming World Cup hosts desperate to find tournament form to take into 2018. With Fabio Capello making way at the end of 2015, the Russians will be looking for much better performances under new coach Leonid Slutsky.
With an ageing and experienced squad, Russia will be hoping that their established names will help them set a strong standard to take into the 2018 World Cup tournament on home soil. Alan Dzagoev will again hope to be the standout performer in the side, although in recent years his career hasn’t reached the early promise and expectations. In goal Igor Akinfeev is a reliable shot stopper, but will need help from his defence if the Russians are to keep out stronger opposition. It will be at the opposite end of the field where the Russians could make a real impact in France, as well as Dzagoev the emergence of pacey wide man Denis Cheryshev is sure to have fans on the edge of their seats. Whereas Zenit St. Petersburg frontman Artem Dzyuba is currently scoring a goal every other game for his nation.
At present there are no established youngsters in the Russian national team set up, but here are three potential talents that will be hoping to catch the eye of Leonid Slutsky before the tournament kicks off in June.
A midfielder that has recently been linked with Liverpool, Magomed Ozdoev already has 6 international appearances to his name, although each has come as a substitute up to this point. A member of the Euro 2012 provisional squad, Ozdoev will be hoping to go one further this summer and make the final selection, avoiding the same disappointment of four years previous. Ozdoev began his professional career at Lokomotiv Moscow, with the 2011/12 season proving to be his real breakthrough year. Unfortunately, the next few seasons saw his game time in Moscow limited which stunted his progress a little, until a loan move to fellow Russian side Rubin Kazan in the summer of 2014. A superb season at Rubin meant that a permanent transfer was arranged in the summer of 2015, and the midfielder has continued his good form for the club which has seen him break into the national setup.
Hard working, a strong passer with an eye for a sweeping long ball, Ozdoev is a central midfielder that is capable of dropping deep and becoming a creative force in more attacking situations. Composed on the ball, he brings assurance to the play and is able to orchestrate those around him. He has an eye for a long range shot but his finishing still requires a lot of work if he is to become a top midfielder in Europe. At Rubin Kazan, Ozdoev has a great arena in which to improve his skills and shine at a high level. He is on the fringes of international selection and will not want to leave his inclusion up to chance, so a strong few months for his club are required. Continued talk of his future is sure to surface in the near future, and he will no doubt become a big player for his Country before the World Cup begins. He’ll be hoping that the tournament in France will be the perfect platform to perform for the footballing World.
Another Rubin Kazan player that has recently been linked with a move to England’s Premier League, this time Southampton, is talented young left back Elmir Nabiullin. A product of the Kazan youth system, Nabiullin broke through at a young age into the first team towards the end of the 2013/14 season. His early performances would see him become a permanent fixture in the side the following year, where he has remained since, earning the youngster a solitary appearance for the national team.
A lightning quick left back, with great close control and a fine ability to cross the ball, Nabiullin is also a very capable winger. So much so that he has been compared to Real Madrid and Wales star Gareth Bale. Although with his small stature Nabiullin is perhaps closer in comparison to that of a young Jordi Alba, with his pace and attacking plays. The Kazan full back certainly has a big future in the game, and if he can go onto be half the player of the aforementioned then he will have an outstanding career. His chances of inclusion in this summer’s tournament for Russia however are maybe not so promising, with Kombarov and Zhirkov established performers on the left hand side, it’ll take some eye catching performances for Rubin Kazan in order for Nabiullin to feature in France. His future is bright though, with many international caps ahead of him.
In September 2015, Lionel Messi endorsed ten of the top young talents in the game to look out for as part of a sponsorship deal with a kit manufacturer. One of these names endorsed was that of Russian attacking midfield star Aleksey Miranchuk. A youngster who has the potential to be the biggest star in Russia since fellow midfield Alan Dzagoev first burst onto the scene. A left footed creative playmaker, with great vision and creativity in his play, he has the ability to play between the lines and causes defences a number of problems. Quick over the ground, able to dribble and pass players at pace, his talent is already clear at such a young age. Technically strong and with great game intelligence, Miranchuk has all the tools to become a global star, and fulfil Messi’s endorsement.
Beginning his footballing career at Spartak Moscow, he was released at a young age along with his twin brother, and both youngsters were picked up instead by city rivals Lokomotiv. After impressing in the youth ranks, Miranchuk was handed his professional league debut in April 2013 at the age of 17 and appeared a handful of times before establishing himself in the first team in 2014. A real impact performer for both his club and the national youth levels, he could be the ideal exciting player to take to this summer’s tournament, a player to get the fans excited and gain valuable tournament experience to carry forward. With two substitute appearances for Russia to his name already, he’ll be desperate to add more appearances to his cv in the upcoming warm up fixtures.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
In a squad packed with experienced heads, there are going to be limited spaces available for younger talent to make the final cut. Apart from the three players mentioned above, who else is in with a shout of going to France this summer? Young Dinamo Moscow left back Grigori Morozov has been performing well this season, and although currently uncapped at senior level, he has the versatility to cover other defensive positions which can be a great addition to any tournament squad. At left back though, as Elmir Nabiullin may find, Russia already have experience and strength which will go against his chances.
Also impressing at Dinamo Moscow has been another left sided youngster in Aleksandr Tashaev, primarily used on the left side of midfield he is able to also play on the right or centrally. His inclusion in France will be a big surprise however, he is yet to be capped at senior level and time is running out for him to impress sufficiently. Also in midfield Pavel Mogilevets has been impressing on loan at Rostov from Zenit this season, and he’ll have an eye on adding to his solitary Russian appearance in the coming months. Roman Zobnin and Roman Emeljanov (Dinamo Moscow and Ural respectively) will also be keen to impress to force their way into the midfield shuffle too, but they may have to wait for the World Cup before gaining their tournament exposure.
This brings to an end our look at the young stars hoping to feature for Russia in France this Summer. How do you rate the chances of the Russians in the Championships? Do you think these youngsters will make the final selection? Let us know in the comments section below.
Russia are drawn in Group B alongside England, Wales and Slovakia and will kick off their campaign against the English on June 11th in Marseille. It could prove to be a difficult group for Russia, with England expected to win the group the battle for second is expected to be fierce. Any points gained in their tournament opener will go a long way to securing their qualification. The knock out stages have to be the target for Russia, once there then anything is possible.