First things first, a pre-emptive apology may be in order. As we're coming down to the wire with the World Cup starting in a week's time and another 10 previews to go after this one, it's going to be a tight squeeze for Stall and I to get them all done in time to also preview the rules of the McDonald's FIFA game and knock out a set of Player Picks. So, please bear with us if the remaining preview articles aren't quite as in-depth as they have been so far. As always, we'll do our best to give you the information you need to succeed!
Now that that's out of the way, let's change gears and take a look at the final 23-man squad Fabio Capello selected. It's worth noting that the entire squad is comprised of players who play their club football in Russia. That means snubs for familiar names like Andrey Arshavin, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Roman Pavlyuchenko. Still, there's a lot of talent throughout the squad and they should perform well against Algeria and South Korea, if not Belgium.
Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan)
Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Andrey Eshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Aleksei Kozlov (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Terek Grozny), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow)
Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Zhirkov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexey Ionov (Dynamo Moscow), Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Victor Faizulin (Zenit St Petersburg), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Krasnodar)
Maxim Kanunnikov (Amkar Perm), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Aleksandr Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow)
Fantasy Players To Watch
Igor Akinfeev - The #1 goalkeeper for Russia is a true talent at the position and if he was interested in a move outside of his home nation there would be a lot of interest from top-tier clubs. The 28 year-old will have a couple good opportunities for clean sheets so long as the aging center backs aren't past their prime.
Georgi Schennikov - While many of the squad is on the wrong side of 30, Schennikov is one of a trio of 23 year-olds who represent some of the burgeoning hope Russia will have heading into a World Cup hosted on their soil in 2018. A regular starter at left back for CSKA Moscow, he just recently made the breakthrough to the senior squad, but if he is set to start he will be a good option due to his attacking tendencies and clean sheet potential.
Yury Zhirkov - The only member of the squad to have played in the Premier League, Zhirkov is a player we remember well from his time at Chelsea as an attacking left back and occasional fantasy asset. He's sometimes been deployed further up the pitch as a winger for the national side, so we'll have to monitor the starting situation between him and Schennikov to determine if one, both or neither of them are worthwhile fantasy options.
Alan Dzagoev - The second of the three promising 23 year-olds, Dzagoev has already become a regular starter for the national side and has an impressive major tournament under his belt, as many of us will recall from Euro 2012. Pacy, technical and with a wide array of killer passes in his arsenal, the attacking midfielder will be one to keep an eye on, especially if he looks like picking up where he left off in 2012 by scoring goals too.
Aleksandr Kokorin - The last member of the trio of promising youngsters, Kokorin has established himself as a star striker for Dynamo Moscow, scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances this past season and a further 3 goals for the national side during World Cup qualifying. Exceptionally fast for his size, great with the ball at his feet and capable of unleashing a cannon of a shot or placing the ball perfectly into the corner, the forward is set up perfectly to help propel his team beyond the group stages.