Monday, June 2, 2008

Euro 2008 Profiles: Russia

I know it’s because of my Anglo-American bias, but when I think Russia, I can’t help but think about Chelsea. You’ve got Abramovich, Chelsea’s ignominious loss in the Champion’s League Final in Moscow, and most recently the rumors of Guus Hiddink taking over from Avram “The Loser” Grant (although looks like Hiddink has no interest in the soap opera called Chelsea, thank you very much). But then my mind wanders back to last year, to a stirring 2-1 victory by Russia over Her Majesty’s Engerland. (I’d just like to be on record that it’s fantastic that England won’t be playing in Euro 2008. It should make the competition far more, well, continental.)

When I look at Russia’s roster, I only see a flood of “k’s” and “v’s”...

GK: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vyacheslav Malafeev (Zenit St Petersburg), Vladimir Gabulov (Amkar Perm)
Def: Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Aleksandr Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Aleksei Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Denis Kolodin (Dynamo Moscow), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St Petersburg), Renat Yanbayev (Lokomotiv Moscow)
Mid: Sergei Semak (FC Rubin Kazan), Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Bystrov (Spartak Moscow), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St Petersburg), Dmitry Torbinsky (Lokomotiv Moscow),
Ivan Saenko (FC Nuremberg)
For: Dmitriy Sychev (Lokomotiv Moscow), Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Spartak Moscow), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Adamov (FC Moscow)

One of Russia’s key players, Zenit St Petersburg striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, is likely to miss the Euros due to a recent knee injury, which will make Hiddink’s job that much harder. I am personally intrigued by the Berezutskiy brothers, who are kind of like the Peyton and Eli Manning of football, except that they are both defenders, and play for the same team, in Russia. So, other than being brothers, they aren’t really anything like the Mannings. It’s just a stupid, cheap analogy to get you ready for the stupid, cheap analogies that will be coming your way from ESPN’s coverage.

Could England beat this team? As has been demonstrated previously, no, especially if Steve McLaren is managing England.
Breakout Player? This is tough now that Pogrebnyak is out. I’ll go out on a limb and say goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who had some injury troubles last year but is only 22 and one of the brightest upcoming goalkeepers in Europe.
Biggest Question Mark? Without Pogrebnyak, who will score goals?
Worst Player? Hiddink has done an excellent job managing the team, so there aren’t really any superfluous players. Even some of the inexperienced internationals have demonstrated that they belong on the team (for example, Adamov only has one cap but co-led the Russian Premier League in scoring in 2007-08).
Can this team win Euro 2008? It would be a stretch, but given Hiddink’s reputation and the flukey way the Euro competition pans out, I’d say it’s a very tentative yes.
What is the squad's pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? No Pogrebnyak and no real superstars to speak of.


JT said...

Arshavin is enterprising enough to get the job done. I would also love to know how a goalkeeper will be the breakout star. He's supposed to make saves, right? So is he going to make them really good saves?

I am confused. Halp plz

Tuffy said...

AK-47. When you absolutely positively have to get knocked out in the opening stage every motherfucking time.

Ironic Steel Salesman said...

Akinfeev will be the breakout star the same way he was a year ago when CSKA beat Arsenal at home 1-0 then drew 0-0 at the Emirates. Making many saves, a few of them very good ones.

Russia will make it out of a relatively weak group, then he'll help them steal a win from whoever wins the group of death, then go down valiantly in the semis.