In leading Russia to Euro 2016, Leonid Slutsky did what the highly-paid Fabio Capello was clearly failing to do before his dismissal.
Can the Russians repeat their outstanding performances during Euro 2008?
Route to Euro 2016
The unpopular Fabio Capello was finally sacked after a 1-0 home defeat to Austria in Qualifying Group G, despite having just been awarded a long contract by the Russian Football Union.
CSKA Moscow head coach, Leonid Slutsky, took over and now runs both club and country at the same time. Despite clearly being very busy, the new manager was able to rally the Russian squad to beat Sweden 1-0 at home, and destroy Liechtenstein 7-0 away.
Their win over Moldova was followed by 2-0 defeat of Montenegro to ensure their qualification as runners-up to Austria.
As a relatively new team formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union (the first-ever winners of the Euros in 1960), Russia have been to four Euros: 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012.
The only time the Russians have progressed into the group stage was in 2008 under Guus Hiddink. Despite suffering a 4-1 defeat to the mighty Spain in their opening game, they went on to beat holders Greece and Sweden to reach the quarter finals and take on Holland.
In what many believe to be one of the best games in European Championship history, Russia beat Holland 3-1 in extra time.
In the semis, Russia found themselves up against Spain, but the eventual champions proved too much for the second time in the tournament.
Fabio Capello was sacked from his job as Russia’s head coach in July 2015, after leading the squad to two wins, two draws and two defeats. As a result, Russia were in third place in their group and on the verge of crashing out.
But when Russian native and CSKA manager, Slutsky, took over, he managed to revive the team’s chances with wins in each of their last four matches.
Slutsky always looks pale and jittery in the dugout, which isn’t surprising considering that he holds the reigns at both his club and for the national team. So while he is used to being under pressure, it remains to be seen whether he can hold his nerve during the Euros.
Most important player
CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev is a 25-year-old attacking midfielder. He plays a vital role for Slutsky at both club and country. Back in 2010, Dzagoev was billed as Europe’s next superstar, but as of early 2016, he’s still in Russia.
Dzagoev shows real vision and athleticism, and can play in the centre or out wide. This allows the playmaker to exploit every channel and open up defences, either with assists or with goals.
So whether he plays from outside left to outside right, or vice versa, Dzagoev will pose a threat to any opposing team.
25-year-old Denis Cheryshev has been at Real Madrid since the age of 11. Despite this, he has made just two league appearances for the club.
The left-winger was a standout player for the B team before spending a productive year on loan at Villarreal in the 2014/15 season, during which time he scored four goals.
Cheryshev is both a good wide-player and striker. Similarly to France’s Antoine Griezmann, he is always seeking opportunities to shoot.
Here at Ladbrokes, we reckon England will win Group B, which leaves only the second spot to ensure Russia’s qualification for the next round.
We think Russia might pip Wales to the post in the latter’s first ever Euros. We’re also sure the fight for the runners-up spot will be a very close run contest between two decent teams.