Kuranyi: Germany favourites but Russia’s time will come

  • Kevin Kuranyi played for Russian club Dynamo Moscow for five years

  • The former Germany forward has FIFA Confederations Cup experience

  • Kuranyi believes Die Mannschaft are the favourites in Russia this year

Russian football fans always react cautiously whenever their clubs buy big foreign stars, but Kevin Kuranyi was a signing who did not conform to certain stereotypes. In five years’ leading the line for Dynamo Moscow, he never gave anyone cause to doubt his sportsmanship and professionalism, while his tally of 56 goals in all competitions makes him the club’s second highest goalscorer since the fall of the Soviet Union.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house when the Dynamo faithful gave Kuranyi a magnificent send-off in 2015 and, after a lap of honour with his son Karlo and daughter Vivien, the German burst into tears as well. Such a strong relationship of love and respect between player and fans is hard to find in this day and age.

"When I had just moved to Moscow, I thought Russians were closed and intense," said Kuranyi, 35, who brought the curtain down on his playing days at the end of March. "That was the wrong impression. You just need to talk with people on a personal level and they really open themselves up, becoming the friendliest and most open individuals on the planet."

By his own admission, Kevin feels a little bit Russian after the seasons he spent at Dynamo. "When I meet somebody from Russia, we practically always find common ground," he laughed. "Russians are good-natured, fierce and forthright. They won’t skirt around an issue but will tell you to your face what they think."

The former striker is planning to return to Russia soon as a television analyst covering the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017. "I’m in talks with two German TV companies. See you at the Confederations Cup in June!"

Kuranyi is like manna from heaven for sports broadcasters in Germany. Not only is he a former player for Die Mannschaft, he also has extensive knowledge of Russian football and is familiar with the country’s culture and customs. He has played under Joachim Low and Stanislav Cherchesov, while he personally knows most of the players in the German and Russian national teams. And finally, he even has experience of performing at the Confederations Cup. The perfect pundit!

"Playing at the Confederations Cup in 2005 was really special for me," said Kuranyi, who bagged goals against Australia and Argentina at the tournament on home soil. "We got a chance to soak in the atmosphere of a major football competition and were the first to play at the renovated stadiums in Nuremberg, Leipzig and Frankfurt."

Germany scored at least two in every fixture at the Confederations Cup that year, but even that was not enough in the semi-final against Brazil, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s team simply could not handle the attacking duo of Adriano and Ronaldinho and lost 3-2.

"One look at the Brazil squad for the tournament was enough to understand they were the favourites," Kuranyi remembered. "There were no weaknesses to the line-up; you had colossal players in absolutely every position."

Brazil went on to win the trophy, while the hosts had to be content with third place. "In fact, everyone viewed finishing third as a great success," explained Kuranyi, who notched 19 goals in 52 matches for his country. "The national team was going through a transitional period and essentially was rebuilt from scratch. There were a lot of new players and a new coaching team. By beating Mexico in the third-place play-off, the rejuvenated team made its first step forward. Many young players got their first taste of major tournament football and gained some priceless experience.

"Twelve years later, we’re at a different stage in our development and I think Germany are the favourites at the Confederations Cup in 2017."

Russia’s transitional period Kuranyi does not think it is right to expect an outstanding performance from the Sbornaya at the upcoming Tournament of Champions. “Cherchesov has not taken charge of the national team at the easiest time,” the German said in support of the Russian coach, whom he played under for just over a year at Dynamo. “He has had to oversee a lot of turnover. The team is basically at the same point that Germany were in 2005.

"If he manages to improve the talented guys," he concluded, "while keeping the balance between experience and youth at the same time, then maybe Russia might get third place like we did 12 years ago. But it’s not worth putting pressure on the players, let them just play some good football and experience a tournament, so that they’re properly ready for action in a year’s time."