Team Russia are not only the hosts and the team to kick off the tournament, but also have the most pressure on them to give the home fans something to cheer about, hopefully going deep in the tournament. They have an extremely competative group, including Mohammad Salah’s Egypt, the unexpected Saudi Arabian side, and Luis Suarez’s Uruguay. Not making it through the group stages since 1986, Russia is poised to pick up their international performances in front of the hungry National team fans!
– Saudi Arabia
Russia players to lead their team and performers to highlight:
Fedor Smolov – Top striker in the Russian league at Krasnodar, Smolov is a domestically grown talent and is coming off of a strong offensive season for the 4th place team. Smolov thumped in 14 goals in 22 league games last season, an amazing pace for a striker. As well, he managed to score in an international friendly against a tough and exciting France side in March this season. When Russia scores look for Smolov to be the man.
Alan Dzagoev – Dzagoev is marketed as a box-to-box midfielder for Russia who will act as their heartbeat and pace maker (no pun intended) for the tournament. Playing at one of the Russian League’s iconic teams, CSKA Moscow, Dzagoev and his team finished second in the table after a terrific season of play. The midfielder scored 7 goals and added 8 assists in 36 games (all competitions), a great rate for a player who has both defensive and offensive responsibilities.
Igor Akinfeev – It is rare for a keeper to rank on a national team’s most important and must watch players list, but for captain Igor Akinfeev he is crucial to his team’s success. Alongside Dzagoev, Akinfeev plays are CSKA Moscow, and managed 15 clean sheets in 28 games of league play. He brings with him 106 international caps into the World Cup, and that experience in the most important position on the pitch should allow for Russia to be settled and organized defensively.
Russia will be hard-pressed to leave the group stages with the teams they find themselves against. Uruguay boasts the striker duo of Cavani and Suarez, while relying on a strong, elite backline of defenders, while Egypt are riding high on the wings of their 2017/18 breakout star Mohammed Salah. And, the proposed weak link in the group Saudi Arabia have done nothing but exceed expectations in qualification, and also have team star Mohammad Al-Sahlawi who scored 16 qualifying goals. It is an uphill climb for Russia in their home World Cup, but tough competition inspires world class performances.