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2018 World Cup team preview: Russia

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Getting to know Russia: The Russian national team have never got out of the group stage of a World Cup and have one won two of their previous nine games at the 1994, 2002 and 2014 World Cups.

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When they competed as the Soviet Union they had better success, with a golden era from 1958-70 which saw them reach the quarterfinals three times and they finished fourth in 1966. In recent times they reached the semifinals of the 2008 European championships as they likes of Andrey Arshavin starred. For more history on Russia, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news


What group are they in? Russia are in Group A alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. The hosts have been handed a pretty manageable group as they aim to make the Round of 16. Uruguay are the favorites but with Saudi Arabia the underdogs and Egypt relying heavily on Mohamed Salah rushing back to fitness, the hosts will fancy their chances, especially if they win against Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener. 


Game schedule – Group A – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here 

Thursday, June 14: Russia v Saudi Arabia, Moscow (Luzhniki) 11am ET
Tuesday, June 19: Russia v Egypt, St Petersburg 2pm ET
Monday, June 25: Uruguay v Russia, Samara 10am ET


Projected lineup (4-5-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Akinfeev —–

— Fernandes — Ignashevich — Granat — Kudryashov —-

—- Samedov —-Kuzyaev—- Golovin —- Zobnin —- Zhirkov —-

—– Smolov —–


Star player: Aleksandr Golovin – The central midfielder is a star for CSKA Moscow at the age of 22 and he is Russia’s greatest hope. A silky playmaker who loves to get on the ball and dictate Russia’s tempo of play, Golokin has scored twice in 18 appearances for his country but is coming off his best goalscoring season for CSKA as he struck seven times (including a memorable free kick at Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League) in 2017/18. Golokin is the posterboy of Russian soccer and plenty of pressure will be on his shoulders.

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Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov – An experienced manager who played for Russia at both the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, as well as Euro 1996, Cherchesov is a cautious coach. He has won five of his 19 games in charge of Russia after he signed a contract in 2016 through the World Cup. He believes in a team-first approach and has largely kept the same group of players together over the past two years. Cherchesov is a lively character who will try to inspire his squad to feed off the home support and seize the moment. He knows they have no real superstars but will be hoping a strong defensive unit will see them out of the group.


Secret weapon: Russia have something nobody else at the tournament will have: home support. Yes, it’s a cliche, but we all now how big of an impact the home fans can have at a tournament. Look at South Korea making it all the way to the semifinals in 2002, Italy making the final in 1990, England winning it all in 1966 and France also winning the trophy on home soil in 1998. Russia aren’t going to win this World Cup but their fans can carry them into the knockout rounds if they can grab four points in their games against Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Then, who knows? 


Prediction: Russia will try and keep things tight and have some clinical finishers in Dyzuba and Smolov, while Golovin will be their main hope in midfield. The hosts are up against it to make it out of the group but the biggest hope they can have is that Egypt’s superstar Mohamed Salah isn’t fit enough to make a huge impact and Russia can then sneak through behind Uruguay to make the last 16. Facing either Portugal or Russia in the last 16 means they will likely exit in the first knockout round, but getting out of the group stage would be a huge success for a team ranked 66th in the latest FIFA rankings.  

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.

Anderson arrives: Can Pellegrini unlock West Ham’s potential?

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West Ham United has sealed another impressive deal, adding $48 million winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio.

It’s a club record deal from the Irons, whose ambitions have been short-circuited in recent seasons by stop-start play under Slaven Bilic and David Moyes.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Now Manuel Pellegrini is in charge, and has made a series of purchases including Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Issa Diop, and Jack Wilshere amongst others.

Anderson was fantastic for Lazio last season, though he was part of a loaded attack with Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, and Sergej Malinkovic-Savic.

Now the challenge is gelling quickly inside a short window. As we’ve seen in the past with markedly changed mid-table sides — see: Everton’s 2017-18 season — hitting the ground running is key.

Players have been convinced of West Ham’s ambition. Here’s the latest, Anderson, from WHUFC.com:

“West Ham is a club with a lot of tradition, lots of great players have played here, like Bobby Moore, Carlos Tevez and Di Canio. They were great players and idols here, and I’m aiming big, who knows, maybe I could hit their heights and be a legend here too.”

But turning that into on-field success and in-room culture has been a challenge. The move to London Stadium didn’t help, and managerial instability has been anything but a boon to the Irons. There have been plenty of self-inflicted wounds, too.

West Ham’s lineup could be frightening, even in the face of injuries to Andy Carroll (surprise!) and Winston Reid. But managing egos new and old is a challenge, which is why the Pellegrini hire could be a masterstroke.

Consider this possible XI from Pellegrini, who largely operated his Manchester City with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 with two holding/defensive/deep-lying center midfielders (There have been rumors West Ham could sell Cheikhou Kouyate).

There are a lot of options for Pellegrini’s front four. Anderson and Yarmolenko both prefer right wing, while Arnautovic likes the left but has proven adept as a center forward if Pellegrini becomes the latest manager to eschew the idea of Javier Hernandez up top. Manuel Lanzini‘s injury does seem to put Wilshere in the No. 10 role.

Fabianski

Fredericks — Diop — Balbuena — Masuaku

Obiang — Kouyate

Anderson — Wilshere — Yarmolenko

Arnautovic

So the ingredients are there, with Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta, and Jordan Hugill joining Chicharito in keeping training competitive.

But Pellegrini will have to navigate a culture that saw a seedy finish to the season, with protests and ugly incidents amongst supporters and players on the field in London.

And he does seem the man for the job. But if he can’t do it… well, stay tuned.

Transfer rumor roundup: Sarri could make changes up front for Chelsea

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With roughly one month until the domestic seasons in Europe kick off, transfer season is about to kick into another gear following the conclusion of the World Cup on Sunday.

Pro Soccer Talk takes a look at three of the day’s biggest transfer stories, including how new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri will handle his attack.

[ MORE: World Cup winner to receive $38 million ]


New Blues boss Sarri is reportedly keen on Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, and that could very well spell the end for both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud at Stamford Bridge.

Higuain and Sarri have history together after both previously having played roles in Napoli’s squad.

Morata and Giroud have only spent one season, respectively, with Chelsea and combined for 14 Premier League goals in 2017/18.


Manchester United could be on the brink of adding some strong defensive depth in the form of an Italy international.

Jose Mourinho is reportedly keen on bringing in veteran center back Leonardo Bonucci, who currently plays for Serie A side AC Milan.

Given Milan’s sanctions from European football though, it is conceivable that the club will allow Bonucci to go in order to raise money for a team in the midst of financial troubles.


After a tremendous showing at the World Cup, France right back Benjamin Pavard is becoming a highly-coveted player.

The Stuttgart defender is being eyed by Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham as a potential replacement for Toby Alderweireld, according to the Mirror.

Pavard scored one of the goals of the World Cup during France’s thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina in the Round of 16.

Prize money revealed for each 2018 World Cup nation

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Exactly $400 million will be dished out by FIFA in prize money to the 32 teams who competed in the 2018 World Cup, which is a $42 million increase from the tournament in 2014.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

With the winners getting $38 million and the runners up $28 million, the four semifinalists were the big winners with Belgium winning $24 million and England getting $22 million. The four teams who were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage each received $16 million, while the nations who reached the last 16 earned $12 million each.

For simply qualifying for the tournament and reaching the group stage, the 16 teams who didn’t make it to the knockout rounds received $8 million.

Below is a breakdown in full of which countries earned what as France took home a cool $38 million as winners.


List of prize money for 2018 World Cup

$8 million: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Peru, Australia, Nigeria, Iceland, Serbia, Costa Rica, South Korea, Germany, Tunisia, Panama, Senegal, Poland (knocked out in group stage)

$12 million: Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Colombia (reached Round of 16)

$16 million: Uruguay, Brazil, Russia, Sweden (quarterfinalists)

$22 million: England (fourth)

$24 million: Belgium (third)

$28 million: Croatia (runners up)

$38 million: France (winners)