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Building a new tradition
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian football has had to create a new identity separate from the accomplishments of sides made up of players from several former Soviet Republics. The last Soviet squad appeared in the 1990 World Cup, with the first Russian team qualifying for the very next installment of the finals. After missing out on France '98, a mix of veteran and young players have led Russia to the top of Group 1 and a place in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
Russia coach Oleg Romantsev has crafted a squad that spreads around the goal-scoring opportunities, with midfielders and forwards alternating on the score-sheet. Among them are Dmitri Khoklov and Alexandre Mostovoi, but the current star of the Russian squad is striker Vladimir Beschastnykh, who cemented his place in the side with a three-goal effort against Switzerland that saw the Russians through to the FIFA World Cup finals.
In goal, Rouslan Nigmatoulline might not be garnering immediate comparisons with the most successful Russian footballer of all time, Lev Yashin, but he has proven to be a competent shot stopper, allowing only five goals in ten qualifiers.
Romantsev is also the coach of Spartak Moscow, and like many of the great Soviet-era sides, he has modeled the national team on his current Champions League squad. Along with Beschastnykh and several other Spartak players, Romantsev also has proven internationals in Celta Vigo's Mostovoi and Valery Karpin. The result is an experienced squad that has come together well.
Significant past players (as Soviet Union):
Igor Belanov, Oleg Salenko, Oleg Blokhin, Lev Yashin
Achievements (as Soviet Union):
-- Quarter-final 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden
-- Quarter-final 1962 FIFA World Cup Chile
-- 4th 1966 FIFA World Cup England
-- Quarter-final 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico
-- Champion UEFA European Championship France 1960
-- 2nd UEFA European Championship Spain 1964
-- 4th UEFA European Championship Italy 1968
-- 2nd UEFA European Championship Belgium 1972
-- 2nd UEFA European Championship West Germany 1988
-- Champion Olympic Games 1956
-- Champion Olympic Games 1988
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