After an impressive 2018 World Cup, Russia are an outside bet to venture into the latter stages of Euro 2020. Here are five players who could help them do just that.
Mário Fernandes (defender)
Mário Fernandes is CSKA Moscow through and through. Having moved back to his homeland from Brazilian club Gremio in 2012, Fernandes has made close to 250 appearances for the Russian giants as he nears his ten-year anniversary. Despite success at club level, however, he didn’t play for Russia until 2017 due to dual nationality.
Raised in Brazil, Fernandes wore the famous yellow and blue strip once before changing his allegiance three years later. Since then, he has played 28 times and got on the scoresheet on five occasions, including an extra-time equaliser against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup, sending his nation barmy at their home tournament. At the age of 30, time is starting to tick away from the defender and this could be his one and only Euros.
Denis Cheryshev (midfielder)
Anyone else remember his exquisite trivela three years ago? My word what a goal. It’s not often that someone so important for their national team hasn’t been entrusted with the same responsibility at club level, but Denis Cheryshev is one of them. Having come through the ranks in Real Madrid Castilla (B), the Russian failed to win over Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez or Zinedine Zidane and – after a number of loan spells – was finally sold to Villarreal in 2016.
Having missed out on the European Championships through injury that summer, Cheryshev set about reinstating himself in the Russia squad and, despite his poor goalscoring record at club level, has found the net 12 times in 30 matches. With just one goal to his name after two seasons at Valencia, Euro 2020 is the time for Cheryshev to once again prove himself and start the final few years of his career the right way.
Aleksandr Golovin (midfielder)
Aleksandr Golovin is Russia’s hottest talent. Starting his professional career as an 18-year-old at CSKA Moscow, Golovin developed into a proper box to box midfielder in the four seasons he spent in his homeland before securing a club-record transfer to AS Monaco in 2018, having impressed in the World Cup.
76 appearances and 11 goals later, he is seen as the future of both club and country and, still only 25, has a long, bright future ahead of him if the trajectory of his career continues the way that it’s started. He made history in 2020/21 when he became the first Russian player to score a Ligue 1 hattrick – when bagged a treble in a dramatic 4-3 away victory against Nimes in February.
Yuri Zhirkov (midfielder)
From Russia’s future, to their trailblazer. Yuri Zhirkov has lived a career that most footballers can only dream of. He’s racked up over 400 club appearances and eclipsed the 100-caps mark for his country, winning league titles and domestic trophies in almost every season.
Having come out of international retirement, Euro 2020 will be his fifth tournament representing Russia, 16 years after his international debut against Italy back in 2015, and he’s not just been a squad player. In fact, he was named in the Team of the Tournament when Russia reached the semi finals of Euro 2008. What a player.
Aleksei Miranchuk (forward)
Aleksei Miranchuk made his professional debut as a 17-year-old for Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russian Premier League and spent seven seasons at the club, playing 178 games in the process, before moving to Atalanta at the beginning of this season.
Able to play as an attacking midfielder or as a striker, Miranchuk was a key figure for Atalanta in 2020/21 and scored on his debut, coming off the bench to bag against Midtjylland in the Champions League. He also scored on his Coppa Itallia debut against Cagliari, so he knows how to make an impact. His quick feet and excellent link up play make him one of Russia’s main creative threats for Euro 2020. Watch this space.