Russia surprised their own fans and probably themselves three years ago when home crowds spurred them to a very creditable quarter-final appearance in the World Cup.
This new-found confidence saw the team comfortably plot their way to the finals of EURO 2020 as clear group runners-up, scoring many goals on the way. However, the team suffered a dramatic loss of form late last year that they are only gradually beginning to put right.
EURO 2020 Fantasy managers certainly have some good-value options to consider in the Russian squad as they are well-capable of putting opposition teams to the sword when their tails are up, but they have lost cohesion at the back and are looking for their returning supporters to lift them again as they face their recent nemesis, Belgium, and then first-time finalists Finland on home soil before travelling to Copenhagen for a difficult mission against Denmark
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining Russia in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy teams.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Russia’s 2020 qualification is very much two stories. There’s the mini-group involving Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino where they won every match and only conceded one goal (in Glasgow) and then there’s the head-to-head with Belgium where they were thumped by an aggregate score of 7-2, thoroughly outclassed both home and away.
In each of those fixtures Russia were ambushed by swift, incisive Belgian counter-attacks complemented by top-class finishing from the likes of Eden Hazard (€10.0m), Romelu Lukaku (€11.0m) and Youri Tielemans (€6.5m). The Russian defence barely had a chance to get set before the goalkeeper was picking the ball out of the net.
There were some positive signs in those matches, though. Even 4-0 down at home, Russia were still looking for a goal and eventually grabbed one through centre-back Georgiy Dzhikiya (€5.0m), a regular in the area at set-pieces, who stabbed home his only international goal so far at the back-post after Thibaut Courtois (€6.0m) could only parry away a short-range header from a corner. Their goal in Belgium had come early on as Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev (€8.0m) pounced when Courtois was caught in possession in his own area.
Against fellow-EURO 2020 qualifiers Scotland at home, Russia’s role was reversed. Russia showed what they could achieve in their second EURO 2020 match hosting Finland, running out 4-0 winners while indulging in what the Sky Sports commentator described as a “Goal of the Night” competition.
Monaco’s Aleksandr Golovin (€7.5m) clipped a free-kick inches over and stung David Marshall’s palms from 15 yards before swinging a corner to the penalty-spot where totemic striker Artem Dzyuba (€8.5m) deftly volleyed home left-footed on 56 minutes.
Moments later, Golovin touched the ball back from the “D” for Magomed Ozdoev (€6.0m) to slam home from 25 yards. Then Dzuyba executed a Cruyff Turn and curled one onto the bar before beating a pair of defenders in the air and poking the ball home. Golovin swivelled the fourth in after neat interchanges in the box.
Russia won at home against both Cyprus and Kazakhstan, but only 1-0 on each occasion. The second of these was particularly notable as the visitors’ tall defenders were able to keep Dzyuba quiet, but a winner eventually emerged two minutes from time when a Golovin free kick was headed home by attacking right wing-back Mario Fernandes (unpriced).
RUSSIA’S EURO 2020 QUALIFICATION RECORD
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
Nine of these goals came at home to San Marino and another five away at Cyprus, but more fancied teams than Russia have struggled to do so well against these opponents. Dzyuba bagged five of his team-leading nine qualifying goals in those two fixtures, but his record of 29 goals in 50 internationals speaks for itself.
Cheryshev backed him up admirably with five qualifying goals of his own, while three players managed a pair of strikes including Golovin, who also shared the primary assisting burden with Dzyuba, each one responsible for five. Cheryshev added three assists of his own from only four starts and five appearances.
RUSSIA’S MATCHES IN 2020 and 2021
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
Russia’s participation in UEFA Nations League Group B3 started well with wins over Serbia at home and Hungary away, then got bogged down with home draws against Turkey and Hungary before a second successive 0-0 draw in a friendly against Moldova was the prelude to the wheels coming off on the road with a 3-2 loss in Turkey and a 5-0 humbling in Serbia. Russia also lost 2-1 at home in an October friendly against Sweden.
2021 has witnessed a recovery in fortunes, but the goals are still going in at the back. Malta and Slovenia were seen off 3-1 and 2-1 respectively in World Cup qualifying matches, but then Slovakia ran out 2-1 winners in an away tie that saw manager Stanislav Cherchesov continue experiments to find a more solid defensive formation having favoured 4-2-3-1 throughout 2020.
- Most starts: Artem Dzyuba, Giorgi Jikia (both 10), Guilherme, Magomed Ozdoev (both 9), Fyodor Kudryashov, Andrey Semenov, Mario Fernandes (all 8), Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksey Ionov (both 7)
- Most goals: Artem Dzyuba (9), Denis Cheryshev (5), Magomed Ozdoev, Aleksandr Golovin, Fedor Smolov (all 2)
- Most assists: Artem Dzyuba, Aleksandr Golovin (both 5), Denis Cheryshev (3), Sergei Petrov (2)
- Goals scored: 33
- Goals conceded: 8
- Clean sheets: 7
THE KEY TARGETS
The standout candidate for Fantasy managers is tall striker Dzyuba. Everything in the attack finds its way to, or through, him. When the team are on top he gets regular chances (every 17.1 minutes in qualifying) and is a lively predator in the area, capable of scoring with head and either foot, with power or with placement. In qualifying, 35 of his 36 attempts on goal were inside the box where he registered 105 touches at just under 12 per appearance. If you’re not familiar with his play, imagine a Russian version of Lukaku.
Given recent encounters, we can understand why Fantasy managers would not be keen on Russian defenders in their opening match against Belgium, but even then the home team (this match is to be played in St. Petersburg) could find the net and, if so, marauding wing-back Fernandes could well be involved.
No defender going to these finals had more attempts in the box (eight) during qualifying, he scored the vital, flying header from a late set-piece at home to Kazakhstan and in recent matches he has scored twice, drilling home a Dzyuba pass on the overlap in Malta and getting a snapshot away from six yards in Slovakia.
The only drawback at the time of writing is that the official game is yet to price him or decide if he will be classified as a defender or as a midfielder where his appeal would drop considerably.
Meanwhile, Fernandes missed the Tuesday-night friendly draw with Poland due to some hamstring issues. In his absence, Vyacheslav Karavaev (€4.5m) played at right wing-back and stole in at the back post to volley in the equaliser from a long Golovin diagonal ball, making exactly the sort of run that Fernandes might have made.
Many pundits have been touting the undoubtedly talented creative midfielder Golovin. When playing he is on dead-ball duties and a haul of two goals and five assists in qualifying is impressive, but he has a frustrating tendency to take low quality shots around the edge of the area and showed when being sent off for a retaliatory kick at the end of the first Belgium qualifier that he can lose his cool.
At €8.0m, Cheryshev is slightly more expensive than Golovin, but that reflects his role as the supporting goalscorer and also the quality of his scoring opportunities.
In qualifying, he had four big chances (Golovin only had one) and he scored from three of them, finishing with five goals from only 324 minutes of play. He and Dzyuba have an understanding around the box and the one will often cross low to make a far post chance for the other.
THE LONG SHOTS
Given that the UEFA EURO 2020 game offers an extra point for goals scored from outside the box you should give serious consideration to right-sided midfielder Ozdoev.
His long-range strike against Scotland was still rising as it hit the net halfway up, he has gone close with similar hits in other games and he can also be on-hand for tap-ins as he was for Russia’s second of five goals in Cyprus.
Atalanta’s right sided midfielder Aleksei Miranchuk (€6.5m) takes over dead-ball duties when Golovin is not around and had 13 goal attempts in only 234 minutes of qualifying action.
Zenit St Petersburg utility midfielder Daler Kuzyaev (€6.0m) started all this spring’s World Cup Qualifiers on the left of attack just behind Dzyuba with Golovin prompting from deeper, but it remains to be seen if he will retain his place this summer.
FanTeam Price Corner
In FanTeam, Golovin is €1.5m cheaper than his UEFA price while €8.0m man Cheryshev costs just €5.0m in this alternative version.