(Reuters) - Factbox on the Russian national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA ranking: 66 (till June 7)
Russia have played in three World Cups since 1994, failing to get out of the group stage every time, most recently in 2014.
The Soviet Union played in seven World Cups, their best performance coming in 1966 when they reached the semi-finals and losing 2-1 to West Germany. They made the quarter-finals in 1958, 1962 and 1970, losing to Sweden, Chile and Uruguay.
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
The former goalkeeper won four Russian league titles with Spartak Moscow and three league championships in Austria with FC Tirol Innsbruck in a long career which also included 39 caps for Russia and eight appearances for the Soviet Union.
He began coaching in Austria, later returning to manage a host of Russian sides including Spartak and Dynamo Moscow.
He led Polish side Legia Warsaw to a league and cup double in 2015-16 and was named Leonid Slutsky’s successor in charge of the Russian national team in 2016.
He clung on to his job despite suffering an early exit in the Confederations Cup by coming third in their group behind Portugal and Mexico.
Cherchesov has prioritized the team’s defense, assembling a new-look back three protected by five midfielders. He also has a reputation for making bold decisions, removing reliable defensive midfielder Igor Denisov from the team after falling out with him at Dynamo Moscow.
Fyodor Smolov: The charismatic striker was written off early in his career after a disappointing spell at Feyenoord and a long goal drought with Anzhi Makhachkala but has roared back with Krasnodar to finish as second top scorer in the Russian Premier League.
With 12 goals in 30 international games, he is his country’s best hope of getting out of the group.
Igor Akinfeev: A one-club man with CSKA Moscow, the goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than anyone else in the history of Russia’s top flight.
The keeper has more than 100 caps since making his debut in 2004 although he has made costly errors, such as conceding soft goals against South Korea and Algeria in the last World Cup which led to Russia’s early elimination.
Aleksei Miranchuk: The playmaker was one of the key men behind Lokomotiv Moscow winning their first league title in 14 years this season.
Twin brother of fellow Russia international Anton, he is Russia’s most creative player, with a deft touch and a penchant for producing tricks.
Russia’s recent results do not make for positive reading: they have lost eight games out of 18 under Cherchesov, winning only five. Most of these matches were friendlies while they lost to Portugal and Mexico in the Confederations Cup and beat New Zealand.
A 4-2 victory over South Korea in October offered hope but they have failed to win in five games since. They battled back to draw 3-3 with Spain in November and were beaten 3-0 by Brazil and 3-1 by France in their most recent games.
How they qualified: as tournament hosts
There is a serious danger Russia could join South Africa from 2010 in being the only World Cup tournament hosts to fail to get out of their group.
Cherchesov’s squad are young, inexperienced and mostly play in Russia’s top flight, meaning the majority of their players have barely tested themselves against international opponents.
The one thing in their favor is a kind draw which placed them alongside Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Group A. The South Americans will be expected to top the group, meaning Russia are likely to be battling Egypt and Saudi Arabia for second spot and a place in the last 16.
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond