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Russians are ambitious

Cuiaba: Minus creative midfielder Roman Shirokov, who has sustained an injury, Russia are unlikely to play an expansive, aggressive game, when they begin their World Cup campaign against South Korea in the Group H tie, at the Arena Pantanal, on Tuesday.

Just the way conservative coach Fabio Capello likes it.

Russia, who since the break-up of the Soviet Union have failed to make a mark at the World Cup, are in fine fettle after an impressive qualifying campaign in which they pipped Portugal to top their group. Winners of four of their last five games, conceding just two goals, the Russians are making their first appearance at the World Cup since 2002 when the finals were co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Alexander Kerzhakov, who was part of the 2002 squad, told the Fifa website that Russia have high hopes.

“We are bidding to win this tournament,” he said. “All of our players have been thriving in Russia, but people outside the country don’t know us. What’s important, though, is that our coach, Capello, knows us and is well aware of our strengths.

“We know what we’re capable of and if everyone plays to the best of their abilities, we will succeed.”

Capello’s crew set off for Brazil missing one vital component — captain Roman Shirokov. The 27-year-old midfielder’s failure to recover from a knee ligament injury represented a serious blow to Capello’s plans, with Rubin Kazan’s Pavel Mogilevets stepping in to replace him.

Veteran defender Vasily Berezutskiy says the 2018 World Cup hosts are in Brazil to set the record straight.

“It’s been 12 years since Russia have participated at the World Cup. So, our objective is to play more than three games and try to qualify from our group. Thereafter, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

The path to the biggest footballing event hasn’t been an easy one for the Koreans as they struggled in qualifying. They also lost the warm-ups to Tunisia 0-1 and more worryingly, were handed a 0-4 drubbing by Ghana last week.

Coach Hong Myung-Bo is fretting over his Taeguk Warriors’ fate, aware that defensive frailties will make the going tough for them. (AGENCIES)