- *Russian team has undergone significant changes since EURO 2016 *
- *This spring has seen the best performances of Alexei Miranchuk’s career *
- Leonid Slutsky: "[Aleksandr] Golovin is Russia’s brightest young star"
Looking at Russia’s squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017, many football fans may not recognise some of the new faces, as there have been significant changes since UEFA EURO 2016.
Veteran stalwarts Sergei Ignashevich and Vasily Berezutsky have both retired from international football, Roman Shirokov has hung up his boots entirely, and striker Artem Dzyuba has been ruled out of the Tournament of Champions due to a knee injury.
Luckily, head coach Stanislav Cherchesov has a number of talented young players at his disposal, who are ready to fill the shoes of the retired leaders of the national team. The responsibility lies mainly on the shoulders of 21-year-old midfielders Aleksandr Golovin and Alexei Miranchuk, as well as 23-year-old defender Georgi Dzhikiya.
Aleksandr Golovin Age: 21
Club: CSKA Moscow
International caps: 12
International goals: 2
The football world first laid eyes on Golovin thanks to Leonid Slutsky, who named the player in his starting line-up for Russia’s first two games at the EURO last year. At home, they have known about the midfielder for a little longer, since Fabio Capello called him up along with a raft of young fringe players for a friendly against Belarus in the summer of 2015.
At the time, Golovin was yet to make an appearance in the league, but still managed to score on his debut for the national team. As a player, he stands out for his creativity, passing, never-say-die attitude and stamina in the sprint. It is no coincidence the young attacking midfielder featured in every Russian Premier League fixture last season.
*What they say about him *"Unquestionably, Golovin is Russia’s brightest young star."
Leonid Slutsky, former CSKA and Russia head coach
Alexei Miranchuk Age: 21
Club: Lokomotiv Moscow
International caps: 9
International goals: 2
There have been quite a lot of similarities in the burgeoning careers of Miranchuk and Golovin thus far. Both were recipients of the award for best young player in the Russian Premier League: Alexei in 2015 and Aleksandr a year later. Miranchuk made his international debut in the same game as Golovin – a 4-2 win against Belarus in June 2015 – and even got on the scoresheet as well.
Miranchuk’s performances this spring have arguably been his best yet. The midfielder provided four goals and seven assists in the second half of Lokomotiv’s season, including a strike in the Moscow club’s victory in the Russian Cup Final.
*What they say about him *"I like Miranchuk. I think he’s very talented and has an outstanding career ahead of him."
Roberto Martinez, Belgium head coach
Georgi Dzhikiya Age: 23
Club: Spartak Moscow
International caps: 1
International goals: 0
Born in Moscow to a family of Georgian descent, Dzhikiya has only made one appearance for the Russian national team during the 3-0 victory away against Hungary in June. Such was the quality of his performance, however, that there is little doubt the Spartak man will be one of the starting defenders in his country’s Confederations Cup campaign. Dzhikiya is dominant in the air, strong in the challenge and has a great positional sense. Moreover, he possesses real tenacity and the ability to execute a pass, and feels particularly comfortable in a three-man defence.
*What they say about him *"Dzhikiya is not in the squad by accident. He has been on my extended list since day one."
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia head coach