Russia – Euro 2012
What are the expectations for the team?
Despite Ireland making the Russians look like Brazil, they made hard work of a straightforward qualifying group, which was only decided by a 1-0 win away to Slovakia in the penultimate match. The team are expected to progress from an easy-looking group but there will be no repeat of Euro 2008's semi-final. Russia will go out against Germany or Holland in the quarter-finals.
Is the coach popular?
Dick Advocaat, who lacks the charisma of his predecessor Guus Hiddink, mostly provokes indifference. He is also seen by many as a stooge of team sponsors Gazprom, who also own Zenit St Petersburg, the club he used to coach. The president of the football federation, Sergey Fursenko, is a former Gazprom and Zenit man. On April 30 Advocaat announced that he will step down after the tournament.
Have any players appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
Clearly inspired by Gary Lineker's love of Walkers, Andrey Arshavin has developed a taste for crisps (Lay's pickled gherkin flavour). Unfortunately, his newfound eating habits coincided with a slump in his form at Arsenal. The goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has pumped iron for Adidas. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov starred in an ad for the hip-hop themed "Battle for Respect" contest for a music channel.
Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Igor Semshov and Roman Shirokov are good value. When it comes to Twitter output, Shirokov is Russia's opinionated but articulate answer to Joey Barton. The 36-year-old midfielder Sergey Semak is also worth listening to. There have been calls for this return to the side after a two-year absence. Arshavin has completed his transformation into a surly meerkat who only really talks to one journalist, Boris Levin of the Sport-Express, and gets paid for the pleasure. Sergey Ignashevich and Aleksandr Anyukov never speak to anyone in the mixed zone. Igor Denisov never speaks to journalists at all.
Do any players have unusual hobbies or business interests?
Vladimir Bystrov is a big fan of fishing. After their recent victory over CSKA, the Zenit players were rewarded with a game of ice hockey. Aleksandr Kerzhakov is also close friends with Sergey Shnurov, the potty-mouthed frontman of the ska-punk band Leningrad. They sing together.
Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?
Arshavin will put finger to his lips, pout and pull faces, but that's about it.
What will the media coverage be like?
The absence of the Gazprom-owned NTV-Plus means there is no chance of a repeat of Georgiy Cherdantsev's mad and inspired performance behind the mic during Russia's historic victory over Holland in 2008. Instead, the state-owned Channel One and Rossiya will split the TV coverage, ensuring that it will be steady but unremarkable. In an effort to garner some publicity earlier this year, Rossiya announced a competition to become a co-commentator for one of the games. There were 5,000 entrants but no one is expecting a new star to emerge.
Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
Group matches in Poland will mean lower numbers, but there are plans to offer free seats on chartered flights. Spartak and CSKA fan groups were promised 500 tickets each for every group match but at the moment the Russian football association is refusing them tickets from its quota as the applications were not registered on the UEFA website. Travel agents are offering packages for all of Russia's group matches at prices that run into thousands of euros. Sasha Goryunov
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