Soviet Union made light work of their maiden preliminary campaign ahead of Sweden 1958, and, discounting one disqualification, reached seven of the eight FIFA World Cups™ they attempted to qualify for. Since Russia's foundation in the early 1990s, they have fared less impressively, qualifying for two (1994 and 2002) of the past five tournaments. In the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, the Russians finished second in their group behind Germany before surprisingly losing a play-off to Slovenia on away goals.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Russia reached the quarter-finals at Sweden 1958, Chile 1962 and Mexico 1970. In the former two tournaments, they were eliminated by the hosts, while Uruguay were accountable for their exit after extra time in Mexico City. The Eastern Europeans went one better at England 1966, when, inspired by goalkeeper Lev Yashin and forward Igor Chislenko, they topped their group and edged a formidable Hungary, before losing 2-1 to both West Germany in the semis and Portugal in the play-off for third place. First-phase elimination befell the Russians in the last two appearances at the FIFA World Cup.
The current crop
Russia are a team that relies on rapid counter-attacks, driven by the likes of Igor Denisov and Andriy Arshavin. The are also proficient at converting chances following crosses into the box. Defensively, they sometimes lack concentration, which is why, despite having an excellent No1, they concede too many goals in crucial games.
The key players
Arshavin, a mazy dribbler, is Russia's captain and chief playmaker, having proven himself in the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League with Arsenal. Igor Akinfeev, who made his international debut as an 18-year-old in 2004, has vast experience and is considered one of the finest goalkeepers in Europe, while in attack Roman Pavlyuchenko is superb at holding up the ball and has also blossomed into a prolific marksman.
Current coach: Fabio Capello
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup England 1966 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Yashin, Eduard Streltsov, Oleg Blokhin