The Russian national football team formed after the break-up of the Soviet Union but only played their first international match in 1992 against Mexico (a 2-0 win). Early on, they struggled to reproduce the form of the Soviet team, despite being regular qualifiers for the major tournaments.
Their revival was born out of a managerial change, Guus Hiddink was appointed after an unsuccessful campaign to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. He set about repeating the huge success he had achieved with South Korea and Australia by introducing a much more attacking philosophy; Russia started blowing teams away with their strikeforce of Kerzhakov, Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin.
A fantastic Euro 2008 campaign ended when Russia were beaten by the untouchable Spanish, who ended the tournament eventual winners. The team for the 2010 World Cup and this summer’s championship remains similar, albeit under a different coach; Dutchman Dick Advocaat now holds the reigns of a squad containing a mixed bag of talent.
Domestically under-fire captain Andrey Arshavin remains hugely popular as does accomplished goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev while a varied strikeforce of Kerzhakov, Pavlyuchenko and Pogrebnyak make up for a relative lack of talent in other areas.
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