Russia v South Korea: Georgi Shchennikov and Aleksandr Kokorin hope to shine for Fabio Capello's Russia

Former England manager faces South Korea tonight

Click to follow
The Independent Football

For both Russia and their manager, it’s a case of rectifying recent records. The country return to the World Cup for the first time since 2002, while Fabio Capello comes straight back after the calamity with England in 2010.

In that, there’s arguably a greater pressure on the Italian - not that he will necessarily feel it. This is basically the last area of his career where he has not enjoyed undisputed success. England’s sorry second-round exit in South Africa stands out amidst a CV that features so much stunning achievement.

While Capello has won at least a domestic title at every one of his clubs, and lifted Milan to the Champions League, he can’t be said to have enjoyed true international success.

It’s perhaps a quirk of his career that, to make amends, he is taking over the most insular of squads. Russia are the only side at this World Cup whose 23 players have all come from their domestic league.

That hasn’t stopped Capello imbuing them with his standard hallmarks. He has completely changed the emphasis of what was previously quite a carefree attacking side, making them durable and hard to beat, if slightly functional.


Summing all that up is the fact that his stand-out player has been 34-year-old centre-half, Sergei Ignashevich. The CSKA Moscow player has grown in stature under Capello, reflecting the roots if his approach.

A number of Premier League teams, however, have looked at C23-year-old SKA left-back Georgi Shchennikov and 22-year-old striker Aleksandr Kokorin. The latter hit 10 goals in 22 games for Dynamo Moscow last season.

Georgi Shchennikov (right) in action for CSKA Moscow

Korea have more Premier League representation, not least in Swansea City’s Ki Sung-Yeung, and now QPR’s Yun Suk-young.

They are part of a squad that have become revitalised under their own 2002 hero, that tournament’s captain: Hong Myung-bo.

Both teams are likely to be trying to finish second behind Belgium, but could well frustrate them, and each other. This could be another game where goals are at a premium.