Ten years ago, everything seemed very different for Russian football. Three years after CSKA Moscow became the first Russian club to win a European trophy, Zenit St. Petersburg had repeated its success in the UEFA Cup and had done so by playing a brilliant offensive football brand and with advanced accent. That summer, a Russian team based mainly on Zenit excelled at Euro 2008, reaching the semi-final. The future of the Russian game seemed bright.
A decade later, apart from winning the bet to host the 2018 World Cup, almost everything went wrong. Russia qualified for the European Championship in 2012 and 2016, and the World Cup in 2014, but nine group games in the three competitions brought a single victory. Russia has not overcome the group stage of any competition since 2008. A decade ago, I could have thought that I had chances to win a World Cup at home. Now, even in a group with Saudi Arabia in 67th place and an Egyptian team led by a wounded, Mohamed Salah, the only goal is to avoid joining South Africa in 2010 as the only host who fails to reach the knockout stage. 19659003] As the scale of the decline became evident, Russia did what it could, taking the obvious short-term measure of appointing a reputable foreign manager. Fabio Capello has been successful in Italy and Spain, winning nine league titles playing in a wide variety of styles. It seemed a completely reasonable choice, despite its failure with England. He only lost five of the 32 games in charge of Russia, but his confrontational approach irritated the team, and by the summer of 2015, Russia was in serious danger of missing Euro 2016. He was fired from Leonid Slutsky, who at least received Russia. to France, but the problems of the national team could not be solved so easily and followed terrible defeats to Slovakia and Wales.
Stanislav Cherchesov, former goalkeeper of Spartak Moscow and Tyrol of Innsbruck, had just won the Polish league and doubled with Legia Warsaw and seemed a logical replacement. But he has only won five of 19 games in charge. There are problems in the whole team, only one of which is really directly attributable to Cherchesov.
Russia lacks a containment midfielder. He has the option of Igor Denisov, a rising star in 2008 who was named captain by Capello, but he is a turbulent figure and fell seriously with Cherchesov in 2015 when both were in the Dynamo in Moscow. That left Cherchesov to use Denis Glushakov there, although he is more a midfielder from frame to frame. Glushakov's form fell in the spring, so he is now only on the reserve list, which means that 25-year-old Zenit midfielder Daler Kuzyayev will probably be used as an anchor, although he is far from being a specialist.
Cherchesov has also had a difficult relationship with forward Artem Dzyuba. He has been retired, to a large extent, apparently, because there are very few alternatives, especially after Dmitry Kombarov succumbed to a knee injury. Dzyuba has spent the season on loan at Zenit's Arsenal Tula, and is likely to back Fedor Smolov and Alexei Miranchuk, yes, that is, Cherchesov uses the 3-5-2 that he has deployed during much of his reign. But that is far from true. In the last two friendlies, a 1-0 loss to Austria and a 1-1 draw against Turkey, Cherchesov started with a 4-2-3-1, the latest change that suggests how chaotic preparations have become for Russia.
The biggest problems, however, are at the center of the defense. Surprisingly, Sergei Ignashevich, at the age of 38, returned and played against Austra and Turkey. His family members, the twins Berezutsky Vasili and Aleksei, who for more than a decade have played with Ignashevich both with Russia and with CSKA, remain retired from international football at the age of 35 years. But Ignashevich reversed his decision to retire last month after Ruslan Kambolov retired from the squad. Apparently, Rubin Kazan defender has a problem in the calf, although he had been accused of doping violations before the case was withdrawn in April. The absence of Kambolov exacerbated the shortage at the heart of the defense created by Georgy Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin tearing the ligaments of the knee.
Only in the more creative divisions of the midfield Russia has something like strength in depth, with Alan Dzagoev and the same promising Aleksandr Golovin maybe now competing for a slot machine, depending on how Cherchesov ends up leaving the side. It says a lot about the shortage of young players that Yuri Zhirkov, one of the seven players in the team over 30 years old, played in the wing in the friendly loss to Austria.
The excitement and hope of a decade ago are gone. All that remains for Russia is the hope that she will not be ashamed.