wsc328 previewWhat are the expectations for the team?
Given the teams in the group Russia really need to make it through to the second round, but they failed to advance against a very similar-looking set of opponents in their last World Cup appearance in 2002. In addition, at Euro 2012 they started brightly in their group, beating the Czechs 4-1, but then got progressively worse before crashing out with a 1-0 defeat against Greece.

Is the coach popular?
Fabio Capello is respected like no other national-team coach since the break up of the Soviet Union. He is the third foreigner to take charge of Russia but whereas Guus Hiddink never quite shook off his travelling circus image and Dick Advocaat was somewhat tainted by his past association with Zenit St Petersburg, Don Fabio is seen as a cut above.
Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
In May 2013, Roman Shirokov had 200,000 followers on his Twitter account and had made exactly 10,000 tweets before signing off with "Probably should stop torturing you all. Laters!" Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev (CSKA squad No 35), who is "never late", drives a Hyundai ix35 to the match through surprisingly traffic-free Moscow streets before running into some road works. He is rescued by the car's navigation system which gets him to the pitch in time for kick-off.

Which players are good interviewees and who are 
the worst?
Shirokov is still the stand out candidate. The Berezutski twins are probably the best of the rest, constantly making fun of each other if interviewed together. Aleksandr Kerzhakov gives a decent interview about as often as he scores these days, though thankfully he manages to find the back of the net more often than another striker, Fedor Smolov, who has scored just seven league goals in seven years for his clubs, although he has two in five matches for the national team.
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Yuri Zhirkov collects memorabilia from the Second World War but his real hobby is being rather dim. A year ago he let his children, aged two and four, have a go on a shisha pipe at his wife Inna's birthday, causing public outrage. A year earlier Inna thoroughly embarrassed herself on national TV after winning the title of "Mrs Russia", getting confused when asked whether the Earth rotates around the sun. In 2011-12 Aleksandr Kerzhakov got involved in the construction of a small oil refinery. He was under the impression that he invested over £2 million but then claimed to have found that three times as much went missing from his account. Needless to say, no refinery was ever built and the "businessman" involved was recently arrested.

What will the media coverage be like?  
Channel One and Rossiya will once again be showing the games with ex-footballer Konstantin Genich drafted in as a commentator from another channel. He only made his commentary debut with the national team last August in Belfast. That match went horribly wrong for the visitors and they ended up losing 1-0, so let's hope he has better luck in Brazil.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
The Russian Football Union took around 63 per cent of tickets for distribution. The rest were sold online via FIFA and these were oversubscribed. Thus, it's not unreasonable to expect up to 4,000 "real" Russians at the match in Rio and about half that number for the other games. Sasha Goryunov


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