Star: As a team built on defense, Russia has lived and died with their keeper. And after topping their group (one that contained Portugal), a lot of it is owed to keeper Igor Akinfeev, the CSKA Moscow man who ceded just 5 goals in all of qualifying. As he follows in the bootsteps of legendary Soviet keeper Lev Yashin, Akinfeev will have to be on point to push Russia ahead in the Cup for the first time since the fall of communism.
Hip-Star: A great many eyes will be on Aleksander Korkorin, the preeminent forward of the team, who led the scoring in qualifying, but someone has to serve him and, given the team's tendency to run on the wings it may need to be Denis Cheryshev, who was gobbled up by Real Madrid's program and has barely sniffed the pitch in the past two years. He may not make the squad, and even if he does, he might not play at all. All the more reason to cite him as you roll up your flannel sleeves and push up your box-framed glasses, that's just how much you know.
Coach: Remember 4 years ago when Fabio Capello seemed to be a genius who was going to save English football? How he had only lost 3 matches when the Cup started...and then promptly oversaw a group of players who looked like a dog's breakfast? Yeah...those were the days; and now he's back in an all new adventure yes it's Capello 2: Russian Boogaloo.
History: The Russians have made an appearance each decade, but they haven't made it past the group stage since 1986 (And that started a long decline from quarter finals to bottom of the barrel). The top highlight was a 4th Place finish in 1966.
Food: I don't trust my pureeing abilities enough to make borsht, and I'm eager for some more breakfast foods so bilinis it is. (I'm aiming for more sweet and less savory, but depending on how long Russia's run goes, I may need to try some thing new.
|Sexy/Genius and he knows it...|
Best Case: The Great Russian Revival continues, besting Korea, stunning EU darlings Belgium and cruising against Algeria. The stalwart defense and potent offense run up the score against the US in round two, and only a desperation, miracle move from Messi sends them out in the Quarterfinals. Ukraine throws up their hands and beg to be annexed as a whole.
Worst Case: The team arrives with a big fat target on their back, and the inexperienced squad is wrong footed by the faster Koreans and Belgians, while their offense sputters. The team bickers their way, pointing fingers and hanging heads as the Algerians knock them out in last place...again. The US moves on to the quarters with ease, and Putin slips a radioactive mickey in Capello's nightcap.
My prediction: Sweet as it would be to relive Rocky IV on a soccer pitch, I don't see great things ahead for either the Russians or the Yanks. Though it will likely be harder on Russia when Algeria steals a point in the last minutes to deny the ex-Reds a second round spot. 3rd place--2 points
Added Bonus: Yup there's Russian hip-hop...so we've at least won on that front, here's Bad Balance.