MOSCOW (AP) — Although Russia is a team with plenty of veterans, only one of them has seen World Cup action.
Alexander Kerzhakov came on as a substitute the last time Russia qualified for the World Cup in 2002, and he’ll be in Brazil this year looking for more.
With Kerzhakov up front, Roman Shirokov will likely be the one to control the tempo of the game. And behind them they have Igor Akinfeev, a goalkeeper who has been a mainstay in the team for a decade.
Here are five players to watch:
CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev made his debut for Russia when he was only 18 years old — the youngest newcomer to the national squad. He has been Russia’s top goalkeeper since 2005.
Akinfeev’s father brought him to the CSKA football school when he was 4 and he has never switched to another club after making his professional debut in 2003.
A stalwart of the Russia and CSKA Moscow defense, Sergei Ignashevich made his national team debut in 2002 against Sweden.
Ignashevich missed the 2004 European Championship because of injury but played in four of the five matches at Euro 2008, when Russia made the semifinals.
He played in all 10 qualifying matches for the World Cup in Brazil.
Vasiliy Berezutskiy joined CKSA Moscow from Torpedo-ZIL in 2002 and made his debut for Russia in 2003. His twin brother Alexei is also a CSKA Moscow and Russia defender.
Fabio Capello’s key playmaker, Roman Shirokov was called up by former Russia coach Guus Hiddink in 2008 but then dropped during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Shirokov was back in the national team under Dick Advocaat and played in all 10 World Cup qualifying match under Capello, scoring three goals.
Alexander Kerzhakov is the only player on the current national team who played at the World Cup in 2002, coming on as a late substitute for Valery Karpin.
After joining Zenit St. Petersburg in 2001, Kerzhakov signed with Spanish club Sevilla in 2006 and won the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup. But he was back in Russia in 2008 with Dynamo Moscow and then with Zenit in January 2010.
Kerzakov scored six goals in qualifying for Euro 2008, but former coach Guus Hiddink dropped him from the final squad because of poor form.