Russia Team - 2014 World Cup Betting
Best Finish: Group Play, 1992, 2004
Manager: Fabio Capello
Captain: Igor Denisov
Key Player: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow)
Group H: With Algeria, Belgium and Korea Republic
After the Soviet Union split up in 1991, Russia has been trying to re-establish itself as a team to be reckoned with. These efforts have yet to come to fruition since they've only managed two World Cup appearances and quick exits under the Russian banner. So is there reason to expect something different from this team in the 2014 World Cup?
If group play is any indication, then Russia is on their way to a potential knockout round berth. They narrowly beat out Portugal, one of the world's top soccer squads, for the lone automatic qualifying spot in UEFA Group F. These two teams split their head-to-head matches, with both earning a 1-0 victory at home. But Russia did better overall, going 7-1-2 (W-D-L) and earning 22 standings points, versus Portugal's 6-3-1 record and 21 standings points.
One driving force behind Russia's strong qualifying run is their manager, Fabio Capello. The Italian managed England during a Last 16 run at the 2010 World Cup, but resigned from his position two years later over a dispute with the country's football federation. It didn't take Capello long to find work managing the Russian national team, and he's made some big changes in his short time here. The most notable included scrapping the old 4-3-3 formation in favor of a 4-2-3-1 system. He also dropped former captain Andrei Arshavin after the midfielder made harsh comments towards Russian fans following a disappointing EURO 2012 campaign.
It definitely hurts not having a playmaker like Arshavin on the pitch, but this team does have plenty of other talent, beginning with Alan Dzagoev. He's switched from the right side of the field to a central midfielder role under Capello, where he can utilize his expert and creative passing more effectively. Dzagoev is still young at 23 and has little international experience compared to other elite players. Nevertheless, he'll be viewed as a leader on this new-look Russian squad.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov, on the other hand, does have plenty of experience. The 31-year-old striker is the most prolific goalscorer in Russian history and added five more goals to his resume during UEFA Group F qualifiers. Viktor Fayzulin and Roman Shirokov, who both scored three goals during the qualifying stage, will also be on the attack for this team.
From an overall standpoint, Russia doesn't have much international success in recent years. But it looks like Capello has already shaped them into a group that's capable of at least making it to the Last 16.