What Can the World Expect from Sbornaya at the Confederations Cup?

Confederations Cup participating ountries

Participating countries for the 2017 Confederations Cup. Source: Wiki Commons/2nyte

When Russia  take on New Zealand in St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon, it will be the culmination of a long year with Stanislav Cherchesov as head coach.

Since his appointment after the failed Euros, Cherchesov has worked hard on assembling a team that could bring glory to Russia on home ground by the World Cup in 2018, and the Confederations Cup is the first real test of the level of the Russian national team, also known as Sbornaya.

Cherchesov’s men have warmed up at a training camp in Austria before the tournament, and they performed well in their two latest friendlies, which saw them defeat Hungary 3-0 in Budapest and draw 1-1 with Chile in Moscow.

Despite that fact, this site sees the odds a little shorter than you’d expect at 7/3 for the Russian hosts. For the tournament, which has seen Russia drawn alongside Portugal, Mexico and New Zealand, Russia will have to do without a number of key players, and although the last two results have been good, Sbornaya has a sad history of failing at international tournaments, which is why it hasn’t received the same home-field bump most nations would.

Russia are hurt by injuries

Shortly before the national team departed for the training camp in Austria the CSKA Moscow duo Alan Dzagoev and Mario Fernandes had to send their apologies due to injury. Dzagoev has been a key player for the national team for almost a decade now, and was planned to be the creative brain in the midfield. Fernandes on the other hand is yet to make his debut for the national team, but after being cleared to play internationally in May, he was almost certain to be named a starter as he fits Cherchesov’s 3-5-2 perfectly.

As if that wasn’t enough, Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba, the highest scoring player in the preliminary squad, arrived to the camp injured, and after a week of missed practices he returned to St. Petersburg to nurture it and regain his health.

Then, during the friendly against Hungary, recently crowned Russian champion Roman Zobnin of Spartak Moscow had to be carried off the pitch with an ACL injury that’ll keep him away from the beautiful game for more than half a year, making it five key players who’ll watch the tournament from home.

Sbornaya has failed internationally before

Apart from the fantastic Euro 2008, where Russia reached the semifinals, Sbornaya has a sad history of falling short of expectations at major tournaments. In fact, the tournament in 2008 was the only time Russia managed to advance from the group stage in eight attempts – five Euros and three World Cups. In these tournaments, they have won just seven games, three of them coming in 2008.

The reasons for the failures are obviously many, but since its introduction in 2005, the foreigner limit in the Russian Football Premier League in particular has been under attack of doing exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do; worsening the level of the Russian players, and making it harder for young players to break through.

READ MORE: Naturalisation and Foreign Player Limit in Russian Football

The future does look brighter

Despite the reasons to be negative, it isn’t all bad. During the past year, Cherchesov has forced through a generation shift, and the team is now younger than it has been in quite some time.

Led by 21-year-old duo Arsenal target Aleksandr Golovin and Russian cup final matchwinner Aleksey Miranchuk, there is once again cause for optimism as they both seemed destined for greatness as things look right now.

Furthermore, Cherchesov can choose between multiple experienced players who have come off fantastic seasons, such as RFPL topscorer Fedor Smolov, Spartak Moscow midfield general Denis Glushakov and of course CSKA’s goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who keeps breaking records.

Unlike at earlier tournaments, this has allowed the head coach to assemble a squad packed with players on form, who are ready to prove themselves at the biggest stage.


Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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