Manuel Veth –
Qatar vs Russia will see the 2018 World Cup host take on the 2022 World Cup host in a friendly on Thursday night in Doha’s Al-Sadd Stadium. The friendly was scheduled as part of a cooperation agreement between the two host nations, which was ratified in January.
Stanislav Cherchesov continues his policy of testing the Sbornaya against opponents from various parts of the world. Since Cherchesov took over, Russia has tested against Turkey (0-0), Ghana (1-0), and Costa Rica (3-4).
Qatar vs Russia – Testing for the World Cup
While Turkey was mostly a diplomatic mission intended to demonstrate the new- found diplomatic ties between Vladimir Putin’s and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administrations, the friendlies against Ghana and Costa Rica, in particular, fall into the former category. Ghana may actually still qualify for the Confederations Cup in Russia next summer, and Costa Rica nicely simulated a possible matchup against Mexico in next summer’s tournament.
Australia will be next summer’s Asian representative at the Confederations Cup and, in the light of this, it would be difficult to categorize Qatar as a possible test for the Confed Cup. In fact, the tiny nation has struggled to qualify for the 2018 World Cup thus far, as the Qatari national team is currently fifth in Group A with just three points out of four games, and is six points behind second placed Uzbekistan, and four points behind third placed South Korea—only the first two teams qualify directly, whereas the third placed team will advance to a playoff to determine one team that will play against the fourth placed CONCACAF team.
In light of this, it will be unlikely that Qatar will feature at the 2018 World Cup but, for Russia, the friendly could become a good test for a possible group stage opponent from the region, as both Saudi Arabia and Iran are likely to advance to the tournament.
The tiny country will, however, view the qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as another stepping stone towards developing a core group of players that can be competitive when the country hosts the tournament in 2022 (more on this here).
Aside from the advantages of testing the Sbornaya against teams that can simulate possible Confederation Cup and World Cup opponents, national team coach Stanislav Cherchesov will also use the friendly in Qatar to make some adjustments in his starting eleven.
Cherchesov – Defence remains his biggest problems
Injuries to CSKA Moscow players Vasily Berezutsky, Aleksandr Golovin, as well as Rubin Kazan forward Maksim Kanunnikov have meant that Cherchesov has called up Kirill Panchenko from the second division club Dinamo Moscow, and Rubin midfielder Denis Tkachuk.
The addition of Panchenko has been a hot topic for quite some time in the Russian media, as they believed that the Dinamo Moscow forward had deserved a chance despite playing in the Football National League.
Indeed, Panchenko has been magnificent for Dinamo this season, scoring 15 goals in 19 games. The Football National League, however, is a big drop from the Russian Football Premier League, and whether Panchenko truly has the talent required to play for the national team remains to be seen.
Furthermore, scoring has not been Russia’s biggest problem under Cherchesov thus far. In fact, the friendly against Costa Rica highlighted the fact that the Sbornaya has several options when going on the attack. It is, therefore, doubtful that Panchenko will actually provide a true alternative to Aleksandr Kokorin (who has been recalled for the first time since his involvement in the post-Euro 2016 scandal), Dmitry Poloz, Fedor Smolov, and Artem Dzyuba—Smolov and Dzyuba are both rested for the trip.
In defence, Cherchesov will be without the injured Vasily Berezutsky. This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as the defender has been horrible, of late, both for club and country. In his place, Cherchesov has called up, among others, Georgi Dzhikiya from Amkar Perm, and Ilya Kutepov from Spartak Moscow.
Dzhikiya has had a good season with Amkar Perm thus far and, while there are some doubts as to whether the Russian-Georgian has what it takes to compete at the top international level, the test against Qatar will provide a good indication whether Dzhikiya has a future with the team. Kutepov, meanwhile, has impressed with his club, Spartak Moscow, this season, and the 23-year-old could indeed become a viable alternative in defence.
As Russia head to the Arabian peninsula, one thing remains certain: Cherchesov will have to find solutions for his leaky defence, as Berezutsky can not be the core of Russia’s defence going toward the World Cup in Russia.
The Squad List for Qatar vs Russia:
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (PFC CSKA Moscow), Soslan Dzhanaev (FC Rostov, Rostov), Stanislav Kritsyuk (FC Krasnodar)
Defenders: Victor Vasin (FC Ufa), Georgy Dzhikiya (FC Amkar, Perm), Ivan Novoseltsev (Zenit Saint-Petersburg), Fedor Kudryashov (FC Rostov), Ilya Kutepov (FC Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (FC Terek Grozny), Roman Shishkin (FC Lokomotiv Moscow)
Midfielders: Yury Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Alexander Erokhin (FC Rostov), Denis Glushakov, Roman Zobnin, Dmitry Kombarov (all – Spartak), Magomed Ozdoev, Denis Tkachuk (FC Rubin Kazan), Alexey Miranchuk, Alexander Samedov (both – Lokomotiv), Yury Zhirkov, Pavel Mogilevets (Zenit)
Forwards: Alexander Kokorin (FC Zenit), Kirill Panchenko (Dinamo Moscow), Dmitry Poloz (FC Rostov)
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Qatar vs Russia 0-3
Al-Sheeb, Kasola, Majid, Yasser, Miguel – Asad, Al-Haydos, Khouki, Luiz Júnior, Afif, Soria
Manager: Jorge Fossati
Akinfeev – Shishkin, Kutepov, Novoseltsev, Kombarov – Glushakov, Gazinsky – Poloz, Erokhin, Kokorin – Panchenko
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and a writer for Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.