Before the 2018 World Cup starts in Moscow next 14 June, Brussels Express has presented all EU national teams involved in the competition. Let’s then introduce European teams. Chapter XII: Russia.
Russia has actually no choice with regard to the 2018 World Cup. As host country, the Russian national players have a lot of pressure to show the other nations it is a serious football contender.
If you have a look at the FIFA World ranking, Russia is actually not that good, as it ranks 70th. The last games it played before the competition starts were not that successful, as it lost against Austria (0-1) and it was not able to defeat Turkey (1-1). It is not the best start in preparing for a major tournament at home.
But the host countries are traditionally successful. Some observers would say they benefit from a friendly arbitrage, while others say they can take advantage of the thousands of supporters who are already there.
It will then be up to Russia to confirm that “performances at home” opinion with their performance. The first round will be quite challenging, as the Russians will play against Egypt, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia – although the Saudi team seems like a likely win for the team.
Key player: Igor Akinfeev
While Andrey Arshavin used to be the major star of the Russian team for few years, there is no real star in the current national team. Russia can, however, count on its captain, Igor Akinfeev, who is used to being involved in international competitions.
He has won the national championship with CSKA Moscow six times – the only club he has played for so far. He played UEFA Champion’s League games for six years in a row, and he also won the UEFA Europa League in 2005.
Igor therefore needs to show the whole Russia he can be a successful leader at home.
- 14 June – Russia vs. Saudi Arabia.
- 19 June – Russia vs. Egypt.
- 25 June – Uruguay vs. Russia.
Places to watch the games in Brussels:
Although it could be quite challenging to find a traditional Russian bar in Brussels, the Russian Cultural Centre surely can give you some tips. In case it can’t, the hundreds of sport bars around Brussels will likely display the games in which Russia is involved.