World ranking: 27

Best European Championship finish: Semi-finals, 2008

How they qualified: Runners-up in Group G behind Austria

Fixtures: England (11 June), Slovakia (15 June), Wales (20 June)

Squad –

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow), Yuri Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg).

Defenders: Alexei Berezutski (CSKA Moscow), Vasili Berezutski (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Neustadter (Schalke 04), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow), Roman Shishkin (Lokomotiv Moscow), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit)

Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Oleg Ivanov (Terek Grozny), Pavel Mamaev (Krasnodar), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (CSKA Moscow)

Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexander Kokorin (Zenit St Petersburg), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar)


Just two years before they are scheduled to host the World Cup, Russian sport is in crisis. Accusations of state-sponsored doping in their athletics programme have resulted in scores of athletes, including Olympic champions, being stripped of medals and banned, leaving the country's participation at Rio 2016 in doubt.

Maria Sharapova, one of the most high-profile female tennis stars of all-time, has seen her career stopped in its tracks after testing positive for banned substance meldonium in March. She is currently waiting to learn what punishment the International Tennis Federation will dish out. Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin also tested positive for the substance, leading to his WBC title showdown with Deontay Wilder being cancelled.

Russia and Leonid Slutsky
Leonid Slutsky key to Russia turnaround after Capello nightmare. Getty

Russia being awarded the 2018 World Cup was shrouded in a controversy itself that is likely to linger right up until the competition kicks off. On the pitch, things looked similarly bleak until recently. Fabio Capello, at one point the best-paid manager in the world, left his position last July, replaced by the vastly more popular Leonid Slutsky. His presence ensured Russia qualified for this summer's competition and once again raised expectations, only for them to be dashed following the news influential midfielder Alan Dzagoev will miss the tournament after suffering a broken foot.

Whether Russia can cope without their talismanic midfielder, who has adopted a deeper role for the national team than in previous competitions, remains to be seen. An improvement on their winless World Cup 2014 performance is needed however, with Russian sport in desperate need of a positive turn of events.

Manager: Leonid Slutsky

Slutsky was the man called into replace the hugely unpopular Capello at the Russia helm. After managing just eight points from six games under the former England boss, Slutsky, who also manages Champions League regulars CSKA Moscow, guided his country to four wins from four, a run that ensured he would be the man tasked with the job at hand in France.


Prediction: Group stage – This current crop of Russian players is arguably the weakest since the break-up of the Soviet Union. With the country's sporting reputation in tatters, a tough group and a history of having only once qualified from the first round in a major international tournament, things are unlikely to improve.