Without superstars like Lev Yashin and Oleg blochin, and without players from republics of the former Soviet Union since its break up in 1991, the Russian national team has qualified to three World Cups (1994, 2002, 2014). With the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be played on its home turf, an automatic qualification was assured.
The national team of the Soviet Union qualified to 7 tournaments stating in Brazil 1950. In each of those tournaments, the team managed to move up from group stages into the knockout stages, reaching the semifinals once (1966) and the quarter finals 3 more times.
One of the legendary players ever in the Soviet Union team was Yashin, nicknamed “The Black Panther”, who recorded 78 appearances and is considered the best goalkeeper in Soviet Union’s history and one of the best ever in the history of the game. Blochin (who is from the Ukraine), is the all-time top goal scorer, with 43 goals in a record-high 112 appearances for the Soviet Union.
After a unified team represented Russia and 14 other former Soviet Union republics between the years 1992-1993, a Russian national team was formed and qualified for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. Oleg Salenko shattered an old record while scoring 5 goals in a 6-1 win over Cameroon in the group stage, but it was Russia’s only win and the team didn’t progress to the knockout stage.
In the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Russia again managed only one win, over Tunisia, and didn’t advance to the next round. For the qualification round to 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Russian Football Federation named Italian Fabio Capello as the new head coach. The team responded by finishing top of the group stage during qualification. In the tournament, Russia recorded just two points from two draws, and again was eliminated after the first stage.
After a golden area in the turn of the century, in which Russian players played for major clubs in Europe’s leading leagues, there are only a handful of Russian players playing outside the Russian league today. The national team is going through a transition period, in which it will have to discover a new form, in order to enable it to compete at the highest level. But hosting the World Cup tournament in 11 cities, to be played in new, state of the art stadiums, or upgraded ones, in front of millions of home cheering fans, the Russian national team enters its fourth World Cup with high hopes.
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