Russia Face Defensive Injury Crisis Ahead Of World Cup Opener v Saudi Arabia
World Cup 2018 hosts Russia are geared up and ready for their opening day clash against an unfancied Saudi Arabia side, however things may not be plain sailing for the Russians.
The Russian defence is falling apart with injuries to key players meaning that they have had to call 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich out of international retirement to plug the gaps.
Ignashevich, who started against England at Euro 2016, will become the oldest player to appear for Russia at a World Cup, beating the legendary Lev Yashin’s record. One of the best goalkeepers in history was 36 years and 279 days old when he made his final World Cup appearance, whereas Ignashevich will be a staggering 38 years and 335 days if he, as expected, starts v Saudi Arabia.
He will make up part of a Russia back three, as they are expected to start in a 3-4-3 formation. Knee injuries to prefered central defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgy Dzhikiya have caused chaos in the backline and given manager Stanislav Cherchesov a tactical headache going into the tournament.
Fyodor Kudryashov, Roman Neustaedter and Vladimir Granat all looked out of their depth in their friendly defeat to France and although Ignashevich will bring experience to the back line, this is still an incredibly weak area for the hosts, which Saudi Arabia will be looking to exploit.
For the visitors, the pacy forward Mohammed Al-Sahlawi is facing a battle to start with fellow striker Muhannad Assiri. These two have been rotating in qualifying in a 4-5-1 system but both of the forwards have the potential to trouble this Russian back line. Juan Antonio Pizzi has a difficult decision to make ahead of kick off.
Russia, also without star man Aleksandr Kokorin this tournament but will be hoping that Fedor Smolov can bang in the goals to get them out of the group stage. The odds seem to think this will be an easy game for the Russian but it could prove to be a banana skin.
The weight of expectation from the home crowd weighs heavy on the squad and this could either inspire the side or make them crack. We can’t wait for this World Cup to get underway and you can follow every kick right here on The Sportsman.