Selecting an untried CSKA Moscow right-back provided an unconventional element in Russia coach Dick Advocaat’s pick of an otherwise veteran squad for Euro 2012.
The loss through injury of Kirill Nababkin’s more experienced club team-mate Vasily Berezutsky, along with Roman Shishkin, stoked fears of a defensive crisis.
While Nababkin’s inclusion among just six defenders has the look of a gamble, Advocaat’s other selections underscore the seniority of a squad dominated by stars of the side that made the semi-finals of Euro 2008.
Roman Sharonov is Advocaat’s other defensive reinforcement. The Rubin Kazan stalwart had not been capped for eight years until being called to Advocaat’s preliminary squad – a move that raised the eyebrows of even Sharonov himself, according to the 35-year-old.
Another old hand drafted in from the Russian cold is Marat Izmailov. After making his first squad in five years for the preliminary selection, the Sporting Lisbon midfielder has been handed his ticket to Poland.
Bulky Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is the only other pick in the final 23 not currently plying his trade in the Russian Premier League, while the inclusion of Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko makes the Russian attack even more familiar to followers of the English Premier League.
Despite fears of a paperweight defence, 22/1 outsiders Russia boast a solid record at the back in qualifying – conceding just four goals in ten matches.
The Russians were also not unduly troubled in a 1-1 draw with a star-studded Uruguay side last Friday and if they can navigate their way through a weak-looking Group A, that tournament winner price will surely tumble.
Russia squad for Euro 2012:
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vyacheslav Malafeev (Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow)
Defenders: Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Kirill Nababkin (CSKA Moscow)
Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Marat Izmailov (Sporting Lisbon), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal)
Strikers: Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham)
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