Russia hasn’t made any World Cup noise since the Cold War ended, but the on-form side is playing well for former England manager Fabio Capello heading into the tournament. But the Russians will have to deal with a major injury blow, as captain Roman Shirokov won't be available for the tournament. 

The Star

As the last line of Russia’s solid defensive game, CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is up to the task. Akinfeev marshalls his backline like a general, and his agility turns aside many shots seemingly headed for goal. 

Fast Facts

  • World Cup Group: H
  • Nickname: Sbornaya (National Team)
  • Manager: Fabio Capello
  • Captain: Unknown (Roman Shirokov injured)
  • FIFA World Ranking: 19
  • Best World Cup Result: 4th in 1966 (as USSR)
  • Qualification Method: 1st in UEFA Group F

Road to Rio

Former England manager Fabio Capello has a knack for bringing the best out of his sides during qualifying, and this campaign was no different. Russia topped favoured Portugal for first in Group F, winning seven of 10 matches and booking an automatic spot to Rio. 

How they Fared in 2010

Russia didn’t qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. The last time the Russians featured on the world stage was in 2002, when they were drawn into a group with Belgium, Tunisia, and co-hosts Japan. Though favoured to advance, Russia had a disappointing group campaign and was eliminated after winning once and losing twice. 

Fixtures

Group H

  • Tuesday June 17 -- Russia vs. South Korea, 6 p.m. ET
  • Sunday June 22 -- Belgium vs. Russia, Noon ET
  • Thursday June 26 -- Algeria vs. Russia, 4 p.m. ET

Outlook

A favourable group draw sees Russia easily in the mix for a spot in the knockout round, something the Russians haven’t achieved since 1986 under the former Soviet Union. The Russians’ vaunted defence will have to hold for that to happen, now more than ever after attacking threat Shirokov is out. With Russia getting set to host the World Cup in 2018, a positive result in Brazil will be welcome for the nation’s football federation.