Sunday, June 1, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Russia Team Preview

The squad: Russia were one of the surprise qualifiers of Euro 2008, entering through the back door when England lost on the final day of Group E matches. Since the break up of the Soviet Union, Russia have qualified for three of four Euros, but have yet to advance past the group stages. Their USSR predecessors reached the Final four times, winning the inaugural tournament in 1960.

The players: Russia have availability issues with two of the breakout stars from Zenit St. Petersburg's UEFA Cup-winning side. Top striker Pavel Pogrebnyak suffered a knee injury in a friendly against Serbia Thursday, leaving doubts about his health. His Zenit teammate, Andrei Arshavin, will miss the first two games due to suspension after he was sent off in Russia's last qualifier. Their status places added pressure on Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored both goals in Russia's key qualifier win over England. More than half the squad plays club ball in Moscow, including starting goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

The schedule: vs. Spain (6/10); vs. Greece (6/14); vs. Sweden (6/18)

The prediction: Although coach Guus Hiddink won't let the Russians accept a "just happy to be here" mentality, their trip to the Euros will end at the group stage.

No comments: