Capello has a point to prove

The country will host the tournament itself in four years' time, so it is important for Fabio Capello's side to get Russia buzzing with excitement by delivering a Euro 2008-style display.

On that occasion, the Russians reached the semi-finals as Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrey Arshavin took centre stage.

Both players struggled to build on their performances in Austria and Switzerland and were victims of Capello's overhaul of the Russia squad following a poor showing at Euro 2012.

The experienced coach admitted he was angry at his abrupt end to his spell as England boss and quickly showed he meant business when he was handed another opportunity in international football.


Ditching star names paid off for Capello, who delivered on his promise to guide Russia to the 2014 World Cup.

His side topped a group containing Portugal as they scored 20 and conceded just five goals in 10 games, which underlined Capello's philosophy of defending and attacking as a team.

"I think it's a little absurd that people still talk about 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and all that," he said.

"To my mind, the modern formation is 9-1. You've got nine who defend and nine who attack. You need to have a block of players, even when you're on the attack."

That disciplined approach built on high-energy performances was successful in qualifying, and Capello will be hoping it will be good enough to get Russia out of their group.

Reaching the last 16 would be Russia's best performance at a World Cup since they became\ an independent nation in 1992.

They were knocked out in the group stage of the Finals in 1994 and 2002.

Russia have a wealth of experience in the likes of Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev,while goal threats include Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Kokorin.

Capello's reputation took a hit following England's dismal showing at the last World Cup but, if anything, that makes Russia a more dangerous outfit in Brazil as their coach looks to right the wrongs of four years ago.

And he has shown signs of learning from South Africa, where the pressure got to England. He has kept the Russia squad out of South America for as long as possible before the tournament, hoping home comforts would keep them as relaxed as possible before their opener against South Korea on June 18.


This article was published on June 10 in The New Paper.

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