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Five things about Russia ahead of Euro 2016

10 May 2016, 21:17

Moscow - Five things about Russia ahead of the European Championship finals where they are in Group B with England, Wales and Slovakia:

Dzagoev's goals needed

Al Dzagoev is a key player for CSKA Moscow and the Russian team and his coach in each case is Leonid Slutsky. The attacking midfielder made his debut in a World Cup qualifying game against Germany in 2008 at the age of 18. Coach Guus Hiddink said he had a "killer pass." He scored three goals at the Euro 2012 but Fabio Capello kept Dzagoev on the substitute's bench for Russia's poor 2014 World Cup finals where they left Brazil without winning a match. He now has 49 caps and is influential again now Slutsky is in charge so that number will increase.

Fifth time lucky?

The Soviet Union won the European Nations Cup in 1960 in France. But the tournament in France will be modern Russia's fifth European Championship finals since 1996. They have only got past the group stage once however in 2008, and what tournament they had. Beaten 4-1 by Spain in their opening group match, Guus Hiddink's side bounced back to beat holders Greece and Sweden to set up a quarter final against the Netherlands. They won 3-1 in extra-time and then had to play Spain again. They lost 3-0 against a Spanish side establishing a crushing dominance of world football.

Shesternyov's bad luck

Albert Shesternyov, nicknamed 'Ivan the Terrible' by opponents and widely regarded as the best defender in the Soviet Union era, went to two European Championships finals and suffered a rare piece of bad luck at the second in 1968. The Soviet Union reached a semi-final against hosts Italy and the match ended 0-0 after extra time. The rules then dictated that the result had to be decided by the toss of a coin. Shesternyov called and lost. The Soviet side then lost to England in the third-place playoff.

Also read: Oxlade-Chamberlain out of Euro 2016 - Wenger

Third time against England

Russia start their Euro 2016 campaign against England in Marseille. The two countries have played twice before in Euro, qualifying for the 2008 finals. England won 3-0 at Wembley before 86,000 people on September 17, 2007 with Michael Owen scoring twice. One month later Roman Pavlyuchenko scored twice as Russia scored a revenge 2-1 win before 84,700 people at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow and eventually took second place in the group ahead of England. England failed to qualify and manager Steve McClaren was sacked.

Slutsky renews national link

Russia has returned to a Russian coach after a decade of experiments with foreign managers. It started with Guus Hiddink from 2006 to 2010. Hiddink was inspirational in getting Russia qualified for the 2008 European Championship finals. They lost 2-1 to Israel but did beat England and were then less bad than England who lost 3-2 at home to Croatia. Hiddink, however, quit after Russia failed to reach the 2010 World Cup finals. Another Dutchman Dick Advocaat then took over. Russia started their qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 with home defeat to Slovakia but then topped their group. Advocaat left after the Euro 2012 campaign - Russia failed to get past the group stage at the finals losing 1-0 to Greece in their last game. Fabio Capello of Italy then took over on a contract reported to be worth $10 million a year. He took Russia to the World Cup finals in 2014, their first for 12 years. But they did not win a match and failed to get past the group stage. His weighty contract was terminated last year as Russia slumbered in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in their place in their group. Russia then won four games in a row under Slutsky to qualify.

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