Russia World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 8:30 PM
Updated: Monday May 27, 2002 10:26 PM
How they line up
Coach Oleg Romantsev favors a 4-4-2 formation, but occasionally switches to a 4-2-3-1 style. He has recently started turning his favorite, Spartak-style short-passing game into a more modern long-ball game with wingers.
Keeper Ruslan Nigmatullin has not been playing for his Italian club, Verona, but remains first choice. His deputy, Dmitri Goncharov, is reliable, but lacks international experience.
At right-back, Omari Tetradze is a multi-purpose defender (he can play in any defensive position and in midfield) with huge international experience. Vyacheslav Dayev, who plays as a center-back for his club but started his career as a wing-back, is the likely reserve.
Veteran captain Victor Onopko is the libero. He has tons of experience and is good at initiating attacks, though he lacks pace. He can also play in midfield. The other central defender is Alexei Smertin, a former midfielder with a strong shot. He is quick, a good man-marker and passes well.
The other options in central defense are the reliable, experienced Igor Chugainov, who began his career as a midfielder and still has an eye for goal, and Yuri Nikiforov. He started out as a talented striker and has a powerful shot, but his lack of pace prevents him from joining the attack as often as he would like.
At left-back, Yuri Kovtun is strong in the air, but has a terrible disciplinary record. Dmitri Sennikov, a versatile and quick defender who plays on both wings for his club, is the likely alternative.
Valeri Karpin is first-choice for right midfield, where his good crosses and club partnership with Alexander Mostovoi are a key feature of the side. The mobile, skilful Rolan Gusev provides cover for Karpin and can also play on the left. Andrei Karyaka, a clever dribbler with a powerful shot, is another option out wide.
In central midfield, Mostovoi is the team's most important playmaker and set-piece expert.
Alongside him is Yegor Titov, an attack-minded player with great ball control and vision. Other options include Sergei Semak, the "little horse," who can play in almost any position, and Dmitri Khokhlov. Tall and strong, Khokhlov may also be used as an additional forward.
On the left of midfield is prodigy Marat Izmailov. He usually plays in the center, but Romantsev, faced with a lack of left wingers, has played the diminutive youngster here. However, Izmailov is likely to move all over the pitch. Dmitri Alenichev, normally a central midfielder, is also an option on the left, for the same reason.
In attack, another wonderkid, Dmitri Sychev, will do well to live up to huge expectations. The Russian media have compared him to Michael Owen because of his precise shooting, pace and passing abilities. He is the likely partner for Vladimir Beschastnykh, a reliable, experienced striker who is good in the air.
Romantsev can vary the formation by taking off a striker and adding a central midfielder. Smertin may be moved forward and replaced by Nikiforov or Chugainov. Alternatively, Mostovoi could be moved back to beef up the defense.
From World Soccer magazine.