Russia will be aiming to continue their winning run when they meet Egypt at the Krestovsky Stadium on Tuesday, but who are the three players to look out for?
The second round of group stage fixtures will begin on Tuesday, with Russia and Egypt continuing their respective World Cup campaigns. A win will be of vital importance for the Pharaohs if they are to keep hopes of reaching the Round of 16, while three points for the hosts will all but confirm their place in the next round.
With Russia carrying all the momentum heading into the game, The Hard Tackles take a closer look at the three players who are worth keeping an eye on.
His performance against Saudi Arabia wasn’t poor by any means, but suddenly Fyodor Smolov seems to be fighting for his place in the starting lineup. That is because Artem Dzyuba made a major impact off the bench, scoring from a towering header, which was practically his first touch in the game.
But, the comfortable scoreline partly means that Smolov’s inability to get the goal wasn’t highlighted all that much. On top of that, his ability to stretch the defensive line was a key factor in Russia getting regular sniffs at goal in their opening encounter, which is sure to come in handy against a resolute Egypt defence.
But, if a repeat of last Thursday happens against the Pharaohs, the pressure will be immense on the Russian number 10 to find the back of the net or lose his place. Regardless, Smolov should be an important player for the hosts once again, as they look to book their place in the next round.
That Salah was Egypt’s talisman was already all too well known. But, their reliance, rather over reliance, on the 26-year-old became starkly clear last Friday when the Pharaohs faced off against Uruguay, and failed to notch up even a single shot on target.
The attack was simply toothless without their star player giving the opposition defence a jittery time. Instead, the Uruguay defence couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable evening, shutting up shop and focusing all their attention towards getting the winner, which they duly did.
Now, with Salah declaring himself fit and raring to go, Egypt should have some cutting edge in the final third, with the Liverpool superstar leading from the front. His return should also serve as a confidence booster for a side in desperate need of some. But, it will be interesting to see how sharp the number 10 is on his long-awaited return as Egypt eye a crucial win.
Alan Dzagoev’s injury in the early stages of the game against Saudi Arabia had the potential to set Russia back massively. After all, the experienced midfielder had been, by far, the biggest threat for the hosts, having conjured up a couple of goalscoring opportunities. But, Cheryshev was in no mood to let that happen.
The former Real Madrid man didn’t just provide a pacy outlet that the Sbornaya had been craving for, but also brought the best out of Aleksandr Golovin with their fantastic link-up play, in addition to the fact that the CSKA Moscow midfielder had more freedom to pull the strings.
Most importantly, his twin goalscoring exploits meant that Russia coasting to a resounding win on the day. The second of those goals is an contender for Goal of the Tournament – what a way to open your account for the national team. Should he continue in a similar vein of form, Egypt will have a lot to worry about.