Preview RUS-CZE: Russia Look for Strong Start
In less than 24 hours, Russia will be opening their Euro 2012 campaign against the Czech Republic on the first day of the tournament at the Municipal Stadium in Wrocław. Much like 2004, Russia will be playing the second match of the opening day. But unlike 2004 (and 2008), Russia are a much stronger side and will be hoping for positive start after opening losses to Spain at the previous two tournaments.
Dick Advocaat has been pretty upbeat from the press conferences he has been giving over the last two days. Based on reports the team seems to be focused and training well. Most of the pundits have labeled Russia as the superior side, but the Czech Republic are still a formidable side despite having barely qualified. They have also only played two of friendlies since qualification, so the extent of their squad isn’t quite known.
Squad: Malafeev or Akinfeev?, Dzagoev or Izmailov?
Most of the starting lineup has been pretty much confirmed with the 3-0 victory over Italy this week. According to the Russia blog at uefa.com, Advocaat still has two question marks.
Question 1: Who will man the posts? Igor Akinfeev has been number one for the last six years and has been solid for CSKA for just under a decade. Vyacheslav Malafeev was also number one for Russia and his last two seasons at Zenit have been stellar.
Answer: Igor Akinfeev
The Zenit custodian has been solid for both club and country, but Akinfeev has made an incredible recovery after a major leg injury had his performance in the second half against Italy qualifies him has number one.
Question 2: Who will make the runs and provide the crosses from the right. Alan Dzagoev was a regular during the qualifying campaign with Vladimir Bystrov and Dmitri Torbinski being his occasional backups. The latter two did not make into the final squad and their place is occupied 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 operator, Marat Izmailov. Izmailov had a terrific season with Sporting CP which culminated in a semifinal finish in the Europa League.
Answer: Alan Dzagoev
Although national team regulars Bystrov and Torbinski as well as other potential candidates Aleksandr Samedov, Magomed Ozdoev, and Aleksandr Ryazantsev were overlooked in favor of Izmailov, he may not have dislodged Dzagoev.
Since coming to the helm about two years ago, Advocaat has favored the 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, and 4-1-3-2, both of which involve Arshavin playing wide on the left wing. There is no doubt that set up will be kept for tomorrows match and the rest of the tournament.
Possible Formation and Line Up
Advocaat will likely go with a 4-2-3-1 to counter the Czech 4-2-3-1 and starve Milan Baros of service. Of the many technical advantages, the 4-2-3-1 will allow Arshavin and Dzagoev to occupy the inner channels and create opportunities while Zhirkov and Anyukov control the flanks. Behind them the Zyrianov-Denisov partnership will shield the back four with Kerzhakov providing the firepower.
In terms of substitutes and alternatives, there is plenty of depth to chose from.
Igor Semshov: a tough midfielder who plays primarily as a defensive midfielder but can attack and score goals as well.
Denis Glushakov: another midfield option for the attacking three behind Kerzhakov not nearly as experienced as Semshov.
Dmitri Kombarov: a versitile flank player who can fill anywhere on the left.
Pavel Pogrebnyak: seasoned striker for the national team who missed Euro 2008 due to a last minute injury. He will look to make an impact this time around.
Roman Pavlyuchenko: long time striker with plenty of experience and known for his Euro 2008 heroics. Pavlyuchenko can make a good impact sub and has been known for scoring crucial goals.
The match will be on ESPN at 2:30PM EDT in the US
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