On Thursday, Russia, led by their captain, Igor Akinfeev, showed their readiness to host the world when they flamboyantly welcomed all participating countries to the 21st FIFA World Cup, tagged Russia 2018.
But while they are set to entertain the teams with their incredible hospitality, what really do you know about the hosts?
??@TeamRussia looking sharp ?✨
?? Which is your favourite?
— FIFA World Cup ? (@FIFAWorldCup) May 24, 2018
The Manager: Stanislav CHERCHESOV
Russia are currently ranked 66th in the world by FIFA, and coached by a former international, Stanslav Cherchesov, who played for both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, U.S.S.R, and Russia.
Cherchesov represented his nation in two different world cups, 1994 and 2002. He was appointed as manager of the national team in 2016, and was in charge of the team during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup campaign.
The 54-year-old ex-Legia Warsaw coach, who has also managed Russian sides, Dynamo Moscow and Amkar Perm, featured 39 times for Russia and prefers the 3-5-2 system.
The National Team– Sbornaya and How They Qualified
16 countries have hosted the FIFA World Cup, with Russia set to be the 17th host nation, the first time the country will be doing so in their history.
However, this won’t be their first appearance at the showpiece, as they will be making their tenth in the group stage of the competition, having done so in nine of their previous 15 attempts.
In terms of their achievements in football, none have come close to when they came fourth in the 1966 world cup hosted and won by fellow Europeans, England.
That feat happened when they were still part of the USSR, and remains their best showing in the game so far.
— Сборная России (@TeamRussia) May 24, 2018
Star Player(s): Igor AKINFEEV
With midfielder Igor Denisov looking very unlikely to make the party, following a series of issues with his manager, Cherchesov, CSKA Moscow goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, is very important to his manager, Sbornaya and Russians.
With over a century of caps for Russia to his name, six Russian league titles and several years of playing in the UEFA Champions League, the 32-year-old’s experience will be very invaluable to his country.
Another player who could be as influential is Akinfeev’s club mate, youngster, Aleksandr Golovin, who contributed 11goals for his club in the 2017/2018 season.
Since 2008, when they memorably reached the last four of the European championship, things haven’t really worked for the host. They haven’t reached the knockout stage of any competition since then, including a disastrous outing in the same tournament four years later.
Ranked 66th, the host will go into the event as the lowest ranked nation, but there seems to be renewed (little) hope for them, following recent performances especially in friendly games given that they didn’t play a single qualifying tie.
Russia conquered South Korea, held Brazil and Iran before falling to Argentina, all in warm-up matches. So, in terms of their hopes as host, they would be looking to go as far as the knockout stages, and possibly match their semi-final appearance over five decades ago.
Of the previous 20 editions of the FIFA World Cup, the hosts have emerged winners on sixth occasions. So, can Russia become the seventh?
Despite their poor outing during the Confederations Cup last year, when they exited at the group stage, the Russians are ranked at 50/1, with a very slim chance of going all the way.
Russia will compete in group A, alongside Saudi Arabia, African giants, Egypt and South Americans, Uruguay, two-time world champions.
The host will play their first game, the opening match of the tournament, on June 14 against Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.