Russia vs Chile Friday 17:00BST/18:00CEST – VEB Arena – Moscow, Russia.
With the final Russia squad for the Confederations Cup announced preparations for the tournament head into the last warm-up match – and their toughest assignment since crashing out of Euro 2016 – against South American champions Chile in Moscow. On the back of an encouraging 3-0 win away to Hungary, there is a glimmer of positivity creeping through, but there are also some notable absentees through injury which will affect Stanislav Cherchesov’s starting XI at the CSKA’s VEB Arena.
Alan Dzagoev and Roman Zobnin are the major misses in midfield, while Artyom Dzyuba is out too, leaving Cherchesov with the task of settling on a partner for mercurial forward Fyodor Smolov. Calls for Igor Denisov to be reinstated into the squad as a replacement for Zobnin were flatly ignored by the national team manager, who has had a fractious relationship with the midfield enforcer. While both were at Dinamo Moscow a few years ago, Denisov allegedly called Cherchesov “a clown” for selecting Boris Rotenberg for one match, but then not many clubs or managers have managed to tame the temperamental talent.
The formation for Sbornaya will be a three man defence – a setup most of the squad are now accustomed to in domestic football – with Viktor Vasin, Georgi Dzhikia (who has shaken off his knock from Monday) and Fyodor Kudryashov in prime position to make up the backline. Dmitry Kombarov has been promised some minutes after recovering from his fitness concerns, but Yuri Zhirkov will still feature on the left flank too. Cherchesov has admitted there is little time left to experiment so whoever he selects is likely to be at the very forefront of his plans.
For their part, the visitors arrive in Russia as favourites to lift the trophy, and with good reason. As Matt Hawkins point out in his preview on Futbolgrad.com, this is the most important generation of players in the nation’s history, having won back to back Copa America trophies and climbed to fourth in the FIFA rankings. The vast majority of their regular senior squad that has played together for a number of years have been called up – in contrast to Germany, who have named a largely youthful and experimental group – so the likes of Alexis Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas (who boast a combined 69 international goals) will offer a significant threat.
With such a relatively strong squad named, it is evident Juan Antonio Pizzi is taking this tournament very seriously and therefore might see one or two key players rested for this friendly, or at least given a truncated runout. Since their Copa America win just over a year ago, they have failed to win a competitive game away from home, and this will represent their first time playing in Russia, so they have plenty of adjustment to do. They do however have a huge bank of experience to count upon – the seven most-capped players in their history are all in the current squad, and their total of 1,106 collective international appearances dwarfs Russia’s 443.
Russia vs Chile – Players to Look Out For
Russia – Dmitry Poloz
Rostov’s livewire forward is in the form of his life after a dream couple of seasons and is fresh from his first international goal, a well-taken finish against Hungary on Monday. Despite often being given less attention at club level than teammate Sardar Azmoun, Poloz is a critical part of a counter-attacking system that has served Rostov so well, and that Cherchesov is attempting to replicate. He may not start – judging by Bukharov’s selection as a like-for-like swap for the injured Artyom Dzyuba in Budapest – but his impact from the first whistle or the bench could be critical.
Chile – Alexis Sánchez
One more goal will put Arsenal’s star man clear as his country’s record goalscorer ahead of the legendary Marcelo Salas, and with 108 caps at the age of just 28, his impact is likely to continue for some time yet. His street-fighting attitude and aggressive will to win epitomises the team, and while Arturo Vidal provides the energy from midfield, Sánchez is the leading man to be stopped if Russia hope to keep a clean sheet.
Prediction: Russia vs Chile 1-2
Russia vs Chile – Possible lineups
Akinfeev – Vasin, Kambolov, Kudryashov – Smolnikov, Golovin, Glushakov, Tarasov, Kombarov – Bukharov, Smolov
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov
Bravo – Jara, Medel, Isla, Beasajour – Díaz, Vidal, Aránguiz – Sánchez, Vargas, Rodríguez
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi