Former England manager and newly appointed Russian national coach Fabio Capello has announced a provisional 36-man squad for the upcoming August 15 friendly against Ivory Coast. The squad will then be trimmed down to 23 players as the Italian samples his first outing with the football-mad country. After a surprisingly poor show at Euro 2012 where the Russians started brightly enough to be considered as one of the contenders, Greece put water to all the hopes in penultimate Group A game as the team was heavily criticized back home for lacking the belief and passion to go further into the tournament. To brighten the country’s chances for a place in Brazil 2014, Dutch coach Dick Advocaat was replaced by the Italian Capello last month to instill a new dimension to an ageing team.
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid boss has promised to blood in younger players from across the cash rich Russian Premier League and his inclusion of ten uncapped players into the provisional squad proves that the 66-year old man takes his words pretty seriously. Although he has kept faith in captain Andrei Arshavin and seasoned striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, players of the calibre of Alexander Zyryanov, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Igor Semshov miss out providing opportunities for Guus Hiddink-led Anzhi Makhachkala‘s Arseny Logashov, Oleg Shatov and Fyodor Smolov. Mr. Capello is certainly casting his eye on the large swathes of the Russian Federation that have the ability to produce fine talents if properly scouted and nurtured.
This is an important assignment for the Italian, who has Christian Panucci and Italo Galbiati as his assistants to help him out over this two-year contract, to push forward this huge country that has seen football become a national passion not seen since the success of the USSR in the era of the iron curtain. Time is very short and the game against the Ivory Coast would be the only test before Russia open their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Northern Ireland on September 7. After a less than impressive four years of coaching England, this is a golden opportunity for Capello to rebuild his reputation and reward the Russian Football Federation’s faith in him by not only qualifying for Brazil 2014 but also competing amongst the world’s best.
The RFU picked out Capello last month from an impressive 13-man shortlist that contained the likes of Harry Redknapp, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho with the idea of bringing back the confidence of Russian football, that has suddenly took a downturn since the team produced a scintillating display in Euro 2008 under Guus Hiddink. But with Capello, things could fall in line given the man’s preference for strict discipline and youth development.
In his opening interview after arriving in Moscow Fabio Capello made it clear that he would scour the whole land to pick out raw talents and putting them into international limelight at short notice. He was quoted as saying,
“The country is huge, with large populations. With plenty of talent. For advanced players, we need to create all the conditions to prepare them for performances for the national team.”
“This is my most important task. I want to give players the will to win, the desire to always fight for victory. The word ‘victory’ is, for me, the most important thing in my career.”
For a man who boasts of seven Serie A titles(although two were revoked later on for match fixing scandal), two La Liga titles and one Champions League, success with the Russian national side might just prove to be the jewel in the crown for the well-travelled Fabio Capello.