The Russian national team are preparing for a friendly against Iceland in the Spanish city of Marbella on Wednesday. The game will be regarded mainly as a test for new players in the squad.
This year will be key for coach Fabio Capello, who is determined to guide Russia to their first World Cup since 2002. The Italian has enjoyed a dream start as Russia’s head coach. They top their World Cup group with a perfect record of four wins from as many games.
However, it’s 2013 which counts, where Russia will be looking to ensure passage to Brazil next year.
The friendly with Iceland will give Capello a good chance to look at some fringe players — something the Italian is looking to do.
“The most important thing from this training camp, which is a bit longer than usual, is that the new players, especially those who are young, get the chance to feel at home within the squad,” says Capello. “But also so they get to understand what I want from them, and also what the other players expect of them.”
Warm weather training camps are nothing new for the Russian national team. They were first introduced under Guus Hiddink, who took his side to Turkey. Capello has chosen Marbella in Spain as his destination.
The 66 year old has one eye on next month’s crucial World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland but the Italian admits the game against Iceland won’t help him much while playing against an apparently similar opponent.
“Iceland is a team that like to keep possession and there playing system is completely different. They don’t like to play long ball football up to a target man, like Northern Ireland do, so the friendly with Iceland won’t really help us in preparation for this game,” he said.
Once again, Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak have failed to make the cut. Capello explains that the former Russia captain is not getting enough first team football for his club side Arsenal.
Marat Izmailov is also not included, but it seems as though the Italian is prepared to give the Porto midfielder a chance in the future.
“The Russian season hasn’t started yet following the winter break, while the Portuguese campaign is in full swing. Therefore Izmailov would have been in a completely different physical condition to the rest of the squad if he joined our training camp,” admits Capello.
“I have already booked a trip to Portugal, and will be watching Izmailov in Porto’s Champions League clash with Malaga.”
Capello has yet to taste defeat during his reign as Russia’s head coach. Although Wednesday’s game with Iceland is only a friendly, the 66 year-old will be determined to keep his side’s unbeaten record intact. And that would provide his squad with a good confidence boost ahead of what will be one of their toughest assignments in Group F, when they take on Northern Ireland in Belfast at the end of March.