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Ranking Russia's 5 Greatest World Cup Strikers

Dan SheridanContributor IDecember 18, 2016

Ranking Russia's 5 Greatest World Cup Strikers

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    Alexander Mysyakin/Associated Press

    While Russia will look to the likes of Aleksandr Kokorin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov to bag their goals this month, they will be following in the footsteps of some of their country’s most celebrated players.

    Since their first World Cup appearance as the Soviet Union in 1958, names have been written into folklore, from iconic goalkeeper Lev Yashin to all-time leading goalscorer Oleg Blokhin.

    But on the biggest stage of all, finding the back of the net has always been key, and often one player has been the difference between success and failure.

    So ahead of their Group H opener with South Korea, we take a look at their five greatest World Cup strikers, both as the USSR and as Russia following devolution in 1991.

5. Valeriy Porkujan

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    Associated Press

    WORLD CUP: ENGLAND 1966

    GOALS: FOUR

    In terms of making an immediate impact on the big stage, Valeriy Porkujan’s international career couldn’t have got off to a better start, with four goals in his first three games at the 1966 World Cup in England. 

    A brace against Chile at Sunderland’s Roker Park propelled the Soviets to top spot in Group Four, while the Chornomorets Odessa man also scored what turned out to be the winner in the quarter-finals versus Hungary.

    His fourth and final strike, however, was little more than a consolation in the semis, with an 88th-minute effort proving to be too little, too late against West Germany.

    His tally on English soil turned out to be Porkujan’s only goals for his country, and though he was picked to represent the USSR in Brazil four years later, he failed to appear and his career ended with only eight caps in the bag.

4. Anatoliy Byshovets

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    WORLD CUP: MEXICO 1970

    GOALS: FOUR

    Known as the man who lead the USSR to Olympic gold in 1988, Anatoliy Byshovets managed the Soviet Union and Russia either side of the country’s devolution in 1991.

    But before that, the forward who spent his entire playing career with Dynamo Kiev notched 15 goals for his country between 1966 and 1972, and four of them came in the Mexico finals of 1970.

    Belgium were his first victims, with the striker netting twice in a 4-1 win before another brace saw off El Salvador to clinch top spot in Group One and set up a quarter-final tie with Uruguay.

    Soviet hearts were broken in the last eight, however, when a goal three minutes before the end of extra time sent Gavriil Kachalin’s men home, but Byshovets had been the star of the show.

3. Igor Belanov

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    WORLD CUP: MEXICO 1986

    GOALS: FOUR

    He may have only represented the Soviet Union at one World Cup, but Igor Belanov certainly made his mark in Mexico in 1986, where he netted a memorable hat-trick.

    The forward, who was also equally at home in an attacking midfield role, got off the mark from the penalty spot during the 6-0 thrashing of Hungary in the group stages.

    But his finest hour came in the Round of 16 clash with Guy Thys’ Belgium, where his country were agonisingly edged out 4-3 in a thrilling tie that went to extra time.  

    Twice Belanov gave the Soviets the lead, and twice the eventual semi-finalists hit back.

    When the Belgians raced into a 4-2 lead in extra time, it looked like the game was up, but a 111th-minute spot-kick from the Dynamo Kiev man set up a nervy finish.

2. Valentin Ivanov

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    Associated Press

    WORLD CUPS: SWEDEN 1958 & CHILE 1962

    GOALS: FIVE

    A vital figure in his country’s march to the European Championship title in 1960 and the runners-up spot in 1964, Valentin Ivanov was a household name in his native Soviet Union.

    And on the biggest stage of all, the Torpedo Moscow forward came up with the goods in spectacular fashion in 1962, winning the World Cup Golden Boot along with the likes of Brazilian superstars Garrincha and Vava.

    His four goals in Chile helped his team reach the quarter-finals before they crashed out at the hands of the hosts, and each one of them came as they topped their group ahead of Yugoslavia, Uruguay and Colombia.

    Four years earlier in Sweden, the striker netted in a 2-2 draw with England, and in all he sits third in the Soviet Union’s all-time scoring list behind fellow legends Oleg Blokhin and Oleg Protasov.

1. Oleg Salenko

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    WORLD CUP: USA 1994

    GOALS: SIX

    Prior to the 1994 World Cup in America, Oleg Salenko was best known to fans of Dynamo Kiev, Valencia and Rangers as a hard-working forward and a regular goalscorer.

    But following the USA showcase, his was the name on everyone’s lips in his home country after finishing the tournament as joint-top scorer alongside Hristo Stoichkov.

    Remarkably, five of his six goals in the competition came in one game against Cameroon, making Salenko the first player to net such a haul in a single World Cup fixture.  

    But in a bizarre twist, and despite his prolific form, the Leningrad-born star never played for his country again after his goal fest in Stanford, California, and only appeared eight times for Russia.

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