Russia’s final World Cup warm-up game sees them welcome Morocco to Moscow on Friday, as Fabio Capello’s men look for a big win to build confidence heading into Brazil.
Heading into Group H in the World Cup alongside Algeria, Belgium and South Korea, Russia will fancy their chances of knockout-stage progression and will come into the tournament off the back of some impressive form.
Venue: Stadion Lokomotiv, Moscow
Date: Friday, June 6
Time: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET
TV Info: Premier Sports/ESPN3
Russia Looking to Continue Strong Form
With Russia making just their third World Cup appearance and first since 2002, they’ll be looking to make a good account of themselves before playing host to the tournament in four years’ time.
Capello’s side are in the best shape to progress to the knockout stage for the first time in their history and have the ability to negotiate Group H with minimal fuss.
According to SoccerWay, the Russians are unbeaten in their last nine matches and performed well in their warm-up games against Slovakia and Norway last month.
Though Norway produced a late equaliser in their friendly, Russia dominated proceedings throughout and should have recorded a routine victory—as they did against Slovakia five days earlier.
Speaking after the 1-0 defeat of the Slovakians, Capello said that his side are in good shape heading into the World Cup, but there’s still room for improvement—per FIFA.com:
I'm really pleased with all of my players' work in the training camp. In the match with Slovakia we've seen the high level of intensity that we will likely face at the World Cup in Brazil. I'm happy that none of my players were injured. We showed well-organised play on Monday, it's a good starting point. But we can definitely play better, much better in attack. It's obvious that after a series of very intensive practices last week my players lacked freshness against the Slovaks.
With a week off from international duty, Russia’s fresh frontmen will be looking to make amends for the chances squandered against Slovakia when they take on Morocco on Friday.
The likes of the two Aleksandrs up front, Kerzhakov and Kokorin, will be hoping to build confidence by helping themselves to a couple of goals against the Moroccans, whose last match saw them lose 2-0 to Angola.
Though Morocco harbour some fine talents in the ranks, the likes of Mehdi Benatia, Younes Belhanda and Marouane Chamakh, taking a result away from Russia will be a tough task, particularly when you consider their recent form.
Having won just two of their last 11 matches, confidence will be low in the Morocco camp, though a win against stellar opposition like Russia would be a fine way to lift their spirits.
Badou Ezzaki’s side will be the hosts of 2015’s Africa Cup of Nations and will hope to find some form and team cohesion with their quest for a second AFCON title on the way.
However, with the talent that Russia have at their disposal together with Capello’s technical know-how, it’s hard to see Morocco causing the Russians a problem on Friday, and nothing but a routine home victory is expected.
As footballs fans know only too well, building up a head of steam heading into a major tournament is crucial, and Friday’s match in the capital will be perfect to get Russia’s confidence up.
Prediction: Russia 3-0 Morocco