Russia

Россия / Rossiya / Russia

  • Capital: Moscow / Москва / Moskva
  • Official Languages: Russian
  • Nicknames: n/a
  • Association: Российский Футбольный Союз / Rossiyskiy Futbolnyy Soyuz (RFS)
  • FIFA Code: RUS

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2018)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Quarter Finals (1999, 2003)
  • Best Euros Result (Men): Semi Finals (2008) [WINNERS as Soviet Union (1960)]
  • Best Euros Result (Women): Group Stage (Various)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 3rd (April 1996)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 11th (July 2003)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 70th (June 2018)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 27th (June 2018)
  • Most Capped Player: Svetlana Petko – 144 caps
  • Top Scorer: Natalia Barbashina – 46 goals

The Russian Federation, or more commonly referred to as Russia, returned to international football in 1992 after first becoming a member of FIFA in 1912, meaning it has had a long history in football. However it has its foundations in the former Soviet Union side who were regarded as one of the strongest teams in European football. Champions of the inaugural European Championships of 1960 and finalists in 1964 and 1972, plus semi-finalists in the 1966 World Cup, Soviet football was at its peak in the 1960s to early 1970s with the black shirted Lev Yashin (regarded as one of the game’s best ever goalkeepers) in between the sticks. Another golden period of Soviet football came in the 1980s, when they reached the final of the 1988 European Championships only to be thwarted by a monumentally talented Dutch side. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia haven’t quite achieved the heights of the old Red Army having qualified for three World Cups since their first in 1994. Their best modern achievement coming in the 2008 European Championships when they were the surprise package as they progressed to the semi-finals of the Euros.

Russia was the most recent World Cup host although had gone into the tournament with little expectations after an unremarkable run-up to the event. However Russia exceeded expectations by first progressing out of the group as runners-up before knocking out Spain on penalties in the Round of 16 match and reaching the quarter-finals. They came very close to reaching the last four, but lost to eventual finalists Croatia on penalties after drawing 2-2 – a very creditable performance from the hosts. However Russia’s current situation is not the best (disregarding all current sporting decisions), with the side having recently suffered a thumping 0-5 defeat to Serbia in the UEFA Nations League, thus denying them promotion to League A. It would seem Russia are on the cusp of a regeneration of its national team, with many of the 2018 World Cup generation being fazed out for the next (and highly touted) generation. It will be interesting to see how the Russian national team develop within the next 5-10 years.

Talking about one of international football’s most interesting teams, and hosts of the 2018 World Cup, is the excellent Russian Football News. Ran by passionate experts and accredited journalists, RFN brings you inside the wonderful world of Russian football in English by producing regular, well-written articles and news reports about all things involving the Russian Premier League, Russian players playing abroad, and the national team. To find their website and social media accounts, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Andrey Arshavin

If one were to look at the Soviet era, there were a plethora of legendary managers and players that gained worldwide recognition, with the likes of Lev Yashin and Eduard Streltsov being some notable examples. For the sake of this questionnaire though, we’ll stick with modern, independent Russia. The greatest player since the dissolution has probably been Andrey Arshavin. Apart from his status as an Arsenal cult hero, Arshavin’s performance for the national team, Zenit, and his play style in general have afforded him with undisputed legend status. Otherwise, the NT’s record goalscorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Yuri Zhirkov and Igor Akinfeev (two symbols of unparalleled longevity), are up there.

In terms of managers, Guus Hiddink is probably the only real shout thanks to the 2008 European Championships where he got Russia a bronze medal. Otherwise, Russia have had a lot of average, up and down managers.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Mário Fernandes

Russian football has had a lot of cult heroes, and a good example of this would be Mário Fernandes. Fernandes was born in Brazil, but has spent the last ten or so years at CSKA Moscow, and was awarded with Russian citizenship before the 2018 World Cup. A phenomenal footballer, the right-back still speaks no Russian but was an integral part of the World Cup team, and is loved by fans of all clubs around the country. Speaking of the past, names like Roman Pavlyuchenko, Sergey Ignashevich and the Berezutskiy twins pop up, simply because of how long they stuck around for the national team.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Russia currently?

Artem Dzyuba

The best player of the current team would probably be captain Artem Dzyuba, taking into account all factors. Dzyuba’s far from the most talented (Monaco’s Aleksandr Golovin and Atalanta’s Aleksey Miranchuk take that cake), but his status as a leader on the pitch, and uncanny ability to score goals mean that he’s definitely the most important. Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev also always comes big for the national team, despite lukewarm league form.

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

Stanislav Cherchesov

After the 2018 World Cup, things were going pretty smoothly up until the two most recent international breaks. As things stand, Russia are winless in six games, bottled sure-fire promotion to League A of the UEFA Nations League, and lost 5-0 to Serbia, which was their heaviest defeat in over 16 years. This has caused fans to further pile scepticism on manager Stanislav Cherchesov, who often comes under criticism for his uninspiring, favouritism-based team selection. Fans are optimistic for the Euros, but also pessimistic in the same breath.

Q. Are there any Russian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Matvey Safonov

Absolutely, Russia has tens of players in the next generation that could go on to play in the best leagues in the world. The generation that just arrived is a real golden generation, and one that could change the shape of Russian football. Players like Shapi Suleymanov [21 year-old winger at FC Krasnodar], Matvey Safonov [22 year-old goalkeeper also at Krasnodar], Daniil Lesovoy [23 year-old attacking midfielder at Dynamo Moscow], Igor Diveev [21 year-old centre-back at CSKA Moscow] must be looked at by every football fan with an interest in talent ID.

Q. Looking at Russia’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

The victory over Spain in the 2018 World Cup is perhaps the biggest result in independent Russian history, but the 3-1 win over Netherlands in the 2008 Euros represented the true peak of modern Russian football.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

Unfortunately, there have been quite a few. Russia’s performance at both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euros was pretty disappointing, but there has perhaps been no single result as embarrassing as the 5-0 defeat to Serbia that took place a few months ago; at least not in the last 10-11 years.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Russian national team?

Currently, the best thing is probably the anticipation and eagerness to see the next generation of super-talented players break into the national team. On the flip side, the continued administrative ineptitude, managerial inefficiency, and a string of bad results have really dampened the mood.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

No, there’s no anthem that comes to mind.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

Personally, not really, but the Russia kits worn at the 1994 World Cup and 2008 Euros are quite popular in the kit collector community, and for good reason.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Russian national team?

To start, we hope that the upcoming Euros aren’t a complete failure, and that Russia at least reaches the knockout rounds. The period after that will probably represent a reset, with a fair few players stepping down from the national team, and newer, more exciting faces coming through. As we’ve said before, this generation has the potential to really fling Russian football to the level of a top ten European nation.

A massive благодарю вас to Russian Football News for answering our questions on the Russian National Team. Remember you can find their excellent account in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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