Six stats behind Russia's six steps

  • Russia made the biggest climb on the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking

  • Progress due to recent wins over Serbia and Hungary

  • Cherchesov broke one record, Dzyuba chasing another

International football finally resumed in early September after the lengthy interruption caused by COVID-19. Leading the way were the European countries competing in the UEFA Nations League.

The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, which had been unchanged for almost six months, saw plenty of movement after the 55 matches. Among those making ground were Russia, who enjoyed the biggest gain with their surge from 38th to 32nd place. It was a fitting reward for a team that has only lost to one opponent, Belgium, since 2019.

We look at six stats behind the six-place progression

The number of overseas players in the most recent squad named by Stanislav Cherchesov. Ahead of his side’s Nations League fixtures against Serbia and Hungary, the Russia coach called up just one player from outside the domestic championship: Fyodor Kudryashov, a defender with Turkish outfit Antalyaspor. No other European team have put as much faith in locally-based players.
The number of defeats suffered by Russia since 2019. The two reverses (3-1 and 4-1) came against the same opponent, although no ordinary one, in the shape of Belgium, currently the world’s top-ranked side. The Sbornaya have won their other ten games, including victories over Scotland and Serbia, also in the top 50 on the FIFA Ranking. Their last draw came in October 2018, when their Nations League fixture against Sweden finished scoreless.
The number of goals scored in each of their last two games: 3-1 at home to Serbia and 3-2 away to Hungary. That impressive average of three goals a game goes back a year and a half (3.25 goals per game based on 39 goals in 12 matches since 2019). During this spell, Russia also set a new record for their biggest-ever win, the 9-0 rout of San Marino on 8 June 2019.
The number of goals now separating Artem Dzyuba from the national team scoring record of Aleksandr Kerzhakov (30). The Russia captain, who netted a brace against Serbia on 3 September, has racked up 26 goals in just 44 appearances. That return has given him the best goals-to-games ratio (0.591) in Russian national team history. Now 32, Dzyuba clearly has the record in his sights, in part because of the lack of available top strikers (there were only three included in the last squad) and also because he is now indispensable to the team.
The number of players under the age of 25 named in Cherchesov’s 23-man squad for the Serbia and Hungary games: Aleksandr Sobolev (23), Anton Miranchuk (24), Zelimkhan Bakayev (24), Daniil Fomin (23) and Yegor Sorokin (24). Fair to say, then, that the coach puts great faith in experience, like that of 37-year-old Yuri Zhirkov, who started the match against Serbia. In fact, the average age of his last squad was 29, a stat only surpassed by Andorra (30 years).
The length in years of Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s contract. He took up the reins in 2016 and recently had his contract extended until 30 December 2022. His four years at the helm of the Sbornaya make Cherchesov's tenure the longest in the history of the national team, surpassing Oleg Romantsev, who held the position between 1998 and 2002.