Why Aleksandr Kokorin Will Have a Massive World Cup for Russia

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Why Aleksandr Kokorin Will Have a Massive World Cup for Russia
Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press

It was less then 12 months ago that Aleksandr Kokorin’s release clause was triggered, with the striker leaving Dynamo Moscow to join Anzhi Makhachkala for €19 million. 

In a bizarre twist, however, the 23-year-old was back in the Russian capital a little over a month later as Dynamo took advantage of an Anzhi restructure that saw their entire squad put up for sale.

The Valuyki-born star never kicked a ball for the Dagestan outfit, and put the unusual episode behind him once he’d returned to the club that handed him his senior debut in 2008.

Back on familiar territory, Kokorin enjoyed his most prolific season to date, scoring 10 times in 23 appearances, while a further four strikes where added whilst on international duty, including three during qualifying.

And with a starting berth all but assured at this month’s World Cup ahead of the likes of Aleksandr Kerzhakov, he will be keen to carry that form to Brazil under Fabio Capello.

Used at the sharp end of a front three, much of Kokorin’s impact will depend on those around him, and both Oleg Shatov and Alan Dzagoev will have a huge say on his success in South America.

While Russia’s progress will undoubtedly hinge on their solidity at the back—where they are marshaled by CSKA Moscow trio Vasili Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich and keeper Igor Akinfeev—the forward’s input will be crucial.

Failure to even qualify for three of the last four World Cup tournaments has heaped pressure on Capello’s men this summer, and for all their defensive stability, they must produce the goods in front of goal.

Even when they did make it to USA 1994 and Japan and South Korea in 2002, not even the best efforts of Oleg Salenko and Yegor Titov were enough to drag them out of the group stages.

Their chances of a positive tournament this time around rest heavily on Kokorin, but there is little to suggest he can’t come up with the goods when it really matters.

Games against Algeria and South Korea offer him the chance to open his account on the biggest stage of all, while a clash with much-fancied Belgium will pit him against some of Europe’s most talented players.

Kokorin’s ability and eye for goal will face intense scrutiny, but with positioning and finishing being his strong points, there’s every chance he will have a competition to remember.

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