Russia Euro 2020 preview: Key players, strengths, weaknesses and expectations

Since entering the 2018 World Cup as the lowest-ranked nation, things have changed for Stanislav Cherchesov’s Russia.

Reaching the last eight of the tournament on home soil saw the country rise in the standings and even got Cherchesov a nomination for the 2018 FIFA Best Men’s Coach award.

Stanislav CherchesovStanislav Cherchesov

Russia staff sing national anthem before World Cup quarter final in 2018 / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Now, despite several of that squad no longer playing for the side, Russians are feeling pretty optimistic ahead of this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament. Competing in Group B with Belgium, Denmark and Finland, it’ll be far from easy – but progressing is possible.

So, in preparation of their Euro 2020 campaign, here’s what you need to know about Russia.

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Also pitted against Belgium in their qualification group (how’s your luck?), Russia actually sailed through to the tournament proper. Despite losing to Roberto Martinez’s side home and away, Cherchesov’s men brushed aside Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino (whom, like Belgium, they thrashed 9-0) to win their other eight fixtures, seeing them finish a whopping nine points clear of the Scots with 24 points.

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Their form has been rocky since, however. In their last 13 matches, Russia have won five, drawn four and lost four, collecting six points from their opening three matches in World Cup qualification and finishing second in Group B3 of the Nations League.

Russia have a clear talisman and out-and-out goal scorer in their ranks. Artem Dzyuba is an obvious target man and focal point for the side and will even wear the captain’s armband. With 29 goals in 52 caps, he’s a real danger man.

SS Lazio v Zenit St. Petersburg: Group F - UEFA Champions LeagueSS Lazio v Zenit St. Petersburg: Group F - UEFA Champions League

Artem Dzyuba in Champions League action for Zenith St. Petersburg / Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images

Cherchesov’s side also boast great creative behind the front man too. Monaco’s Aleksandr Golovin registered five goals and nine assists in just 21 Ligue 1 appearances last term, despite missing a three-month chunk early in the season.

Meanwhile, there are constant goal threats from wide with the likes of Denis Cheryshev, who has 12 goals in 30 caps, and wing-back Mario Fernandes, who has scored five in his 29 appearances for the national side.

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Russia’s main Achilles heel will undoubtedly be the lack of experience at the back. Contrary to their run in the 2018 World Cup, there will be not be an experienced voice from the back line as there was with Igor Akinfeev.

In place of Russia’s heroic goalkeeper, it will likely fall upon Anton Shunin to start between the sticks. The 34-year old only has 12 caps for his country while, in front of him, there is little international pedigree.

The lack of experience in defence isn’t to say they don’t have quality. In fact, Cherchesov can call upon a very promising youngster at the heart of his back line, in the shape of Igor Diveyev. The 21-year old has enjoyed a good season with CSKA Moscow, not missing a single game when available.

Igor DiveevIgor Diveev

Igor Diveyev playing for Russia in the Nations League / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The central defender registered two goals and two assists during the league campaign, helping CSKA to a sixth-placed finish in the Premier Liga.

Another player to have enjoyed a good season in Russia’s top flight is 24-year old Aleksandr Sobolev. The striker notched an impressive 14 goals in 21 league outings during 2020/21 and earned an international debut in October.

Since then, he’s featured six times and notched three goals for Russia – not bad at all. He won’t find it easy to muscle his way into the team past Dzyuba, but he should get opportunities to impress at Euro 2020.

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Cherchesov’s 26-man final squad for the Euro 2020 tournament:

Goalkeepers: Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow), Yury Dyupin (Rubin Kazan), Matvei Safonov (Krasnodar)

Defenders: Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St Petersburg), Fyodor Kudryashov (Antalyaspor), Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Andrei Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Vyacheslav Karavayev (Zenit St Petersburg), Igor Diveyev (CSKA Moscow)

Midfielders: Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco), Aleksei Ionov (Krasnodar), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow), Daler Kuzyayev (Zenit St Petersburg), Aleksei Miranchuk (Atalanta), Denis Cheryshev (Valencia), Magomed Ozdoyev (Zenit St Petersburg), Andrei Mostovoy (Zenit St Petersburg), Dmitri Barinov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Daniil Fomin (Dynamo Moscow), Rifat Zhemaletdinov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Maksim Mukhin (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Makarov (Rubin Kazan)

Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Zabolotny (Sochi), Aleksandr Sobolev (Spartak Moscow)

You can catch every confirmed Euro 2020 squad here.

There’ll be confidence around Russia’s chances of progressing past the group stage with all three of Belgium’s competitors vying for that second (or even third) spot.

Cherchesov’s side has its strengths and 33 goals from 10 qualifying games proves that. However, against the quality that Belgium and Denmark possess all over the field, the test may prove too big – if they’re going to make it past the group stage, Russia could plausibly make it via a third-placed spot.

Prediction: Last 16

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