Russia will be looking to boost football in their country as they will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russia qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the UEFA Group F winners with 22 points, finishing a point ahead of Portugal. This is the 3rd appearance of Russia at the FIFA World Cup. Russia's best result is group stage in 1994 and 2002. However FIFA considers Russia as the successor team of the USSR.
Population: 142.5 Million
Area: 17,098,240 km2
Federation: Russian football federation created and affiliated to FIFA in 1912 (USSR affiliated to FIFA in 1946), then relaunched in 1992, affiliated to UEFA in 1954
Registered players: 846,736
Colours: All red
World Cup appearances: 10 = 7 for the USSR (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990) + 3 for Russsia (1994, 2002, 2014)
World Cup record: 4th (1966), quarer-finals (1958, 1962, 1970), second round (1986), 2nd group phase (1982), 1st round (1990, 1994, 2002)
European Championships appearances: 11 - 6 of them for the USSR (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1988), 1 for United Russia (1992) and 4 for Russia (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012)
How they qualified: Won Europe zone group F with 22pts - Pld 10, won 7, drew 1, lost 2, 20 goals for and 5 against - ahead of Portugal (21), Israel (14), Azerbaïdjan (9), Northern Ireland (7) Luxembourg (6)
Top clubs: Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenith St-Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow
Key players: Igor Akinfeev, Roman Shirokov, Alexander Kerzhakov
Coach: Fabio Capello (Ita/since July 2012)
Tough coach gets Russia over the line
Having missed the last two World Cups Russia will be present at the next two having edged Group F ahead of pre-qualification favorites Portugal to make the cut for Brazil and by virtue of the fact they host the show in 2018. The man behind their qualification is the Italian coach Fabio Capello who took over from Dick Advocaat after a first round exit at Euro 2012. Russia's on field performance had been gutless and captain Andrey Arshavin had a public row with supporters, refusing to say sorry to Russia for their failure. Capello sidelined Arshavin right from the off as well as striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and several others. The stern disciplinarian who had previously handled Roma, AC Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid and England soon whipped his new charges into shape. They won their first four matches including a 1-0 home win over direct rivals Portugal with top gun Alexander Kerzhakov getting the goal. They then conspired to lose in Lisbon, and then in Belfast against Northern Ireland.
But the rigour of Capello's leadership was enough to keep the Russian ship steady as they went on to edge the Portuguese by a point for direct qualification.
Living on old glories
They say there is no good team without a good 'keeper and Capello dealt with Vyatcheslav Malafeev's international retirement by bringing back Igor Akinfeev, 28, who had done well at Euro 2008. The CSKA stopper let in just 5 goals in the qualifiers. Ahead of him is an experienced defence featuring two CSKA men Sergey Ignashevich and one of the Berezutsky twins, Vasily, usually assisted by Dmitry Kombarov of Spartak Moscow. In midfield the inspirational captain Roman Shirokov scored the goal against Azerbaijan that sent Russia to the World Cup. The Zenit St Petersburg man has two clubmates alongside him in Viktor Fayzulin and Vladimir Bystrov.
In attack the natural born striker Alexander Kerzhakov got five in qualifying while the promising Alexander Kokorin got four. The team has been refreshed and reinvigorated. Its defence is solid and there is talent and cohesion in both the midfield and the attack. "I trust this young, enthusiastic group of players," says Capello. And given how suited he appears to be to the Russians, the feeling is seems certain to be mutual. Russia took fourth place in England in 1966, have been in four quarter-finals, but the last of those was 1970. A long, long time ago.