Dick Advocaat got his first notable experience as a professional coach after his playing career when former Dutch National Team manager Rinus Michels called in Advocaat to be his assistant coach. When Michels, the curator of "Total Football," was in his second stint as the Oranje's manager in 1984.
Advocaat eventually went on to manage the national team on his own twice (1992-95, 2002-2004). Now though, Advocaat leads an experienced Russian side to this year's Euros in Poland and Ukraine.
Advocaat, like Michels and just about every other Dutch-born manager, is a firm believer in the 4-3-3 system Ajax has made famous, and he will surely use that formation in some modified form with Russia at the Euros. Modifications to the system will have to be made in terms of the attacking trident, but there will certainly be three central midfielders—one sitting deep in the hole and two attacking players playing on a pivot, finding pockets of space between the midfield and defenders.
The key to Russia's success won't be its attacking flair, though. In a group with Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic, Russia will take on teams with tight defenses that focus on stopping attacks rather than imposing their will on opponents.
Since Russia's titillating performances in the 2008 Euros—lead by the enigmatic and frustrating Andrey Arshavin—the team has a sturdier defense, but lost a lot of its potency in the attacking-third.
It will be up to Advocaat's trident in the midfield of Igor Denisov as the holding midfielder, Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov or Denis Glushakov, as the forward midfielders, to create chances and open up play on the wings for Russia's overlapping fullbacks, which will surely be the converted winger Yuri Zhirkov on the left and Aleksandr Anyukov on the right.
Wingers Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev, who are both playmakers rather than goal-scoring threats will work as more inverted wingers, tucking inside, giving Zhirkov and Anyukov room to exploit space.
There are still questions as to who will provide the goalscoring punch for Russia. Roman Pavlyuchenko hasn't played up to his potential in more than a few years. Pavel Pogrebnyak had a resurgence after moving to Fulham on loan in the January transfer window, but an ankle injury hampered him a bit near the end of his loan.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov is the in-form forward right now in Russia, scoring 19 goals in the 2011/12 Russian Premier League season. He could find himself leading the charge with a bit in his teeth and a point to prove after being left out of the 2008 Bronze-winning Euro side by Guus Hiddink.
Keys to Russia Moving on into the Quarter-Finals
Denisov's control of the midfield
Denisov is a solid defensive midfielder. He breaks up attacks well and is a tidy passer in the midfield. Russia will need him to be on his toes against Greece and Poland's counter-attacks. He will have to be the destroyer against the Czech's and stay calm on the ball when Russia does win it back. All because the Czech Republic likes to play a possession-oriented game in the midfield and getting the ball off the midfield players is key to breaking down what the Czechs do.
This goes for every team, but in this group, Russia just needs to score first and hold its own. Greece isn't a scoring powerhouse and neither is the Czech Republic. Poland has the best goalscorer in the group, Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, but The White Eagles aren't the most potent attacking team either. If Russia can get on the board first it should be able to hold on and boss the game or get a few extra goals along the way.
Russia should finish in the top two in the group, more likely second, and move on the the quarter-finals where Germany should be waiting. It will be unrealistic to expect this side to get past Germany, though. There isn't a whole lot of faith put into the attacking players on this side right now, and unless someone finds some inspiration or Arshavin suddenly turns into the player he was in 2008.
Goalkeeper: Igor Akinfeev
Defenders (Left to right) Yuri Zhirkov, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutski, Aleksandr Anyukov
Midfield: Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Denis Glushakov
Forwards: Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Andrey Arshavin
Goalkeepers: 1 Igor Akinfeev; 13 Anton Shunin; 16 Vyacheslav Malafeev
Defenders: 2 Aleksandr Anyukov; 3 Roman Sharonov; 4 Sergei Ignashevich; 5 Yuri Zhirkov; 12 Aleksei Berezutski; 19 Vladimir Granat; 21 Kirill Nababkin
Midfielders: 6 Roman Shirokov; 7 Igor Denisov; 8 Konstantin Zyryanov; 9 Marat Izmailov; 15 Dmitri Kombarov ; 17 Alan Dzagoev; 18 Aleksandr Kokorin; 22 Denis Glushakov; 23 Igor Semshov
Forwards: 10 Andrey Arshavin; 11 Aleksandr Kerzhakov; 14 Roman Pavlyuchenko; 20 Pavel Pogrebnyak
Coach: Dick Advocaat (NED)
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