The coaching staff of the Russian national football team has published the composition for the training camp, which will be held in September. The extended list includes 36 players, and six of them have not previously defended the colors of the national team. It included veteran goalkeepers Mikhail Kerzhakov and Anton Shunin, four defenders of Spartak, who conceded ten goals in five starting rounds of the RPL season, but there was no place for Fedor Smolov.
In the first month of autumn, the Russian national football team will hold a training camp, the apogee of which promises to be a friendly match with Qatar. And although its date and venue have not yet been confirmed, according to media reports, it should take place on September 12 at the Al-Janoub Stadium, where seven matches of the 2022 World Cup were played. To prepare for the match, head coach Valery Karpin called 36 players, but the line-up may change down. So, last time the expanded list for 11 days was reduced from 41 to 29 athletes.
Although this time the mentor initially sent out invitations to a smaller number of performers, finding a number of them in this list seems ambiguous. Especially in light of the lack of prospects for returning to the international arena in the near future.
Why were Kerzhakov and Shunin included in the composition?
Many may be surprised by the appearance in the list of the main goalkeepers of Zenit and Dynamo. Of course, now Mikhail Kerzhakov and Anton Shunin are performing at a high level. In the RPL, both are in the top 8 both in terms of the percentage of hits repelled and in “crackers”, and in terms of the total number of rescues, the Muscovite goalkeeper is in second position, second only to Ilya Lantratov. But given the current realities, it is extremely difficult to explain the invitation of athletes, who both celebrated their 36th anniversary in January.
Of course, the goals of the Russian national team are formed by the coaching staff. But it is logical to assume that now the team is faced not so much with the task of getting the better of a specific opponent, but rather with the formation of a new backbone that will personify it on the international stage when the suspension ends. And also in the field to look at the nearest reservists who had not previously received a chance to prove themselves.
Therefore, the invitation of Kerzhakov and Shunin looks very strange precisely from a strategic point of view. Yes, both are able to compete for a place at the start with the same Lantratov, Matvey Safonov and Ilya Pomazun and even win the competition. But what is the use of this is a big question. After all, not in a year, so in a couple, both can think about ending their careers.
Perhaps it would be more logical to opt for Vitaly Gudiev, who occupies the sixth place in terms of the percentage of saves, or young Nikolai Sysuev with Bogdan Ovsyannikov. Let them still clearly fall short of the status of the first number of the country. And this is not to mention Alexander Maksimenko and Alexander Selikhov, who are experiencing health problems.
Why does Karpin need four Spartak defenders at once?
After five rounds, the red-whites are in sixth place in the Russian championship table and are four points behind the leading Krasnodar and Ural. But the successes of Guillermo Abascal’s wards are due to a powerful and diverse attack rather than a strong defense. During this time, the Muscovites allowed their opponents to score ten times and are on the fourth line in the list of the most passing teams in the league. Only Rubin, Rostov (both – 11 each) and Orenburg (12) are worse. But if these clubs did not delegate a single defender to the national team, then Spartak – four at once.
However, in this case, the choice of Karpin looks justified. And it’s not just the general level of Georgy Jikia, Ruslan Litvinov, Daniil Khlusevich and Daniil Denisov. It’s just that there is a serious shortage of high-quality defenders in Russia and it is very difficult to find worthy competitors for them. Especially when it comes to the central zone.
In the top teams, this position is filled mainly by legionnaires, and some of the strong Russians are in the infirmary. Igor Diveev and Stanislav Magkeev were out until the end of 2023, Maxim Osipenko is also injured. Therefore, here the head coach had practically no room for maneuver. Yes, there is Ivan Kuzmichev and Yegor Pogostnov from Lokomotiv, but they are unlikely to surpass the above Spartak players in terms of level.
Did the debutants deserve the challenge?
For the first time, six players will have the opportunity to try on the form of the country’s main team. We are talking about defenders Sergei Volkov and Viktor Alexandrov, as well as midfielders Alexander Chernikov, Nikita Krivtsov, Alexander Yushin and Andrey Egorychev.
The challenge of athletes from Krasnodar and Ural, the leaders in the RPL, can be easily explained – they are all in excellent shape and play important roles in their teams. Each of them took part in five championship matches, and only Yushin did not start everything at the start – once he came on as a substitute. At the same time, he has one assist to his credit and ranks first in the team in expected assists (xA), while Yegorychev is one of Ural’s top scorers. In turn, Chernikov managed to score a goal and is now in the top 25 best RPL players according to the average WhoScored rating, while Krivtsov and Volkov play an important role in organizing the bulls’ attacks.
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Another thing is Alexandrov, who failed the starting segment of the season. In five rounds, he earned two red cards, because of which Pari NN was largely defeated first by Zenit and then by Torch. Yes, in the confrontation with the Petersburgers, the removal was controversial, but this does not change the fact itself. Against this background, the appearance of a defender in Novogorsk seems extremely strange.
Was it worth calling Golovin and Miranchuk?
Someone may be surprised by the presence in the protocol of five Lokomotiv midfielders at once, who started the season neither shaky nor rolled. But, as is the case with the abundance of Spartak defenders, this makes a certain sense. Nevertheless, Dmitry Barinov and Anton Miranchuk have long been among the strongest football players in the country (although the latter is not stable), and Sergey Pinyaev, Artyom Karpukas and Maxim Glushenkov personify the future of the national team. Yes, not all of them will find a place at the start. Moreover, it is highly likely that only Pinyaev, who continues to progress by leaps and bounds, will get playing time. But in the absence of alternatives, this seems like a logical solution.
Another thing is the inclusion of Alexander Golovin and Alexei Miranchuk in the list. The first by default remains one of the strongest players in the national team and its leader, and the second has just recovered from injury and is now more focused on club affairs. After all, it is still unknown where exactly he will continue his career – in Atalanta or Torino. Therefore, there is no special need for their arrival at the location of the team.
It is possible that in this way Karpin once again shows his interest in their services, but no more. Over the past year and a half, these players have received several official calls to the national team, but at the last moment they cited various reasons and remained in France and Italy. Perhaps the same will happen in September.
Did Karpin call all the attack stars?
At first glance, it may seem that it is impossible to find fault with the choice of forwards. Karpin, as expected, did not pass by the defending color of Rostov, Nikolai Komlichenko, but also took all of his strongest competitors. Here, Fyodor Chalov, the leading scorer in the race (even though he scored all the goals from the penalty spot, was extremely useful), and Konstantin Tyukavin pursuing him, and Alexander Sobolev, who continues to turn into the Russian Harry Kane. And also Ivan Sergeev, who took 336 minutes to score three goals and one assist in all tournaments.
Could someone expand this quintet? Given the current state of Artyom Dzyuba, only Fedor Smolov comes to mind. Yes, now he rather performs the functions of “tens”, but there is no doubt about his class. Another thing is that the forwards of Dynamo and Lokomotiv have already crossed the 33-year milestone and are among the veterans of the team. Therefore, in the long term, one cannot count on them. As well as the age-old Anton Zabolotny, whose functions can be performed by both Komlichenko and Sobolev.
Yes, if desired, Karpin could check Roman Yezhov and Nikita Saltykov from the Wings of the Soviets in the case, and also reward Yevgeny Markov and Alexei Kashtanov for excellent results. But it would not be easy for them to compete with the above-named players.