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WC Qualification Europe

  • 7 September 2012
  • • 16:00
  • • Stadion Lokomotiv, Moskva
  • Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
  • • Attendance: 14300

Russia - Northern Ireland Preview: O'Neill faces tough start against Capello's men

Russia - Northern Ireland Preview: O'Neill faces tough start against Capello's men


The two sides face each other in a competitive international for the first time as they both kick-off their World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign in Moscow with the hosts favourites



Anyukov, Ignashevich, V.B'skiy, A.B'skiy
Glushakov, Denisov,
Bystrov, Dzagoev
, Bilyaletdinov,


Hughes, McAuley, Evans, McGivern
Norwood, Davis, Baird, Brunt
Lafferty, Shiels

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill goes into his first competitive international with three of his squad unavailable through injury. Newcastle left-back Shane Ferguson (groin), Martin Paterson (hamstring) both miss out, while Celtic midfielder Paddy McCourt (groin) looks set to miss the trip to Moscow and Tuesday's clash with Luxembourg.

Russia manager Fabio Capello has made a number of changes ahead of the contest, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrey Arshavin have both been left out, as has Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. Yuri Zhirkov and Sergei Semak were both omitted due to injuries.

  • Northern Ireland and Russia have never faced each other in a competitive international.
  • Northern Ireland have only ever qualified for the finals of a World Cup on two occasions, in 1982 and again in 1986.
  • Billy Bingham's men advanced to the second group stage in '82 before being knocked out. However, they could not repeat the feat in Mexico four years later as they fell at the first hurdle.
  • Since that point Northern Ireland have never finished higher than fourth in a World Cup qualification group.
  • Fabio Capello (pictured right) takes charge of his first competitive game as Russia boss on Friday and takes over from Dick Advocaat.
  • The Russians have only qualified twice for the World Cup since the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1994 and in 2002. On both occasions they were eliminated in the group stage.
  • Following the omission of Arshavin, every player in the Russian squad now plies their trade in the Russian Premier League.
  • Russia striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov has not scored a competitive goal for his country since October 2010.
  • Russia have lost just four of their last 20 competitive internationals.

Players to watch

A. Dzagoev

Position: Midfielder

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
The one positive aspect of Russia's group stage exit at Euro 2012 was the form of Alan Dzagoev. The Zenit St Petersburg man enjoyed a superb tournament, netting three goals in three games.

The impetus will be on Dzagoev to deliver again for his country as they try to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 2002. The 22-year-old Dzagoev has six goals in his last six competitive internationals, and visitors Northern Ireland will have to stop the attacking midfielder if they are to have any chance of picking up a good result in Moscow.

C. Brunt

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
The West Brom midfielder is often a key man for the West Midlands' club and has produced a number of match-winning displays for the Baggies in recent years.

Brunt will be hoping to re-produce his club form for Northern Ireland, as they attempt to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 26 years. The 27-year-old has scored just one goal in 36 appearances for his country, but his attacking prowess and creative presence could prove vital if the visitors are to pull off a surprise result.

Many will expect Michael O'Neill's men to have to defend from the outset, however the travelling fans will look to the likes of Brunt, and first-choice striker Kyle Lafferty to deliver and make their first competitive trip to Russia a successful one.

Editor's Prediction

Russia are without doubt, the overwhelming favourites, and in front of a home crowd they will be expected to cruise to victory. However, Northern Ireland are a side blessed with an abundance of resiliency and spirit, and they will look to make life difficult for Capello's men. Alan Dzagoev is Russia's main goalscoring threat, and if O'Neill's side can frustrate him then they should have a good chance of taking a point from a very difficult away trip.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head


Northern Ireland


Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Russia RUS
Russia Russia
Northern Ireland NIR
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland

Top 3 Predictions

Russia RUS
8 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR
Russia RUS
3 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR
Russia RUS
2 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR