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Russia's Fyodor Smolov

FIFA World Cup preview: Russia

Russia holds a chalice that is sometimes poisoned as host nation of the FIFA World Cup.

Some, like South Korea in 2002, thrive and push deep in the tournament. More often than not, though, lower-ranked host nations crash and burn like South Africa in 2010.

There will be vats of pressure tipped over this Russian squad by their home faithful who will be demanding nothing less than escape from the group stages.

Automatic qualification and a favourable pool draw mean there is every chance they could do it, but nothing comes easy at this level.

The draw for Russia

June 15 v Saudi Arabia

June 20 v Egypt

June 26 v Uruguay

The star players

Fyodor Smolov is the young striker who made his debut in 2012 and will carry the weight of expectation on his shoulders at this World Cup. Russia will want goals-aplenty from him - and they will need them to progress.

Stanislav Cherchesov- the former international goalkeeper for USSR and Russia - will coach this side in their fourth World Cup as Russia.

What needs to go right

As hosts, Russia could be dismissed in some quarters because of their free ticket into the final 32.

But Russia is no greenhorn when it comes to the FIFA World Cup finals, qualifying in 2014, 2002 and 1994. As the Soviet Union, they qualified for bags of World Cups and finished fourth and played plenty of quarter-finals in the past.

The last time Russia - in any form - escaped their pool was in 1986. To break that drought here, Saudi Arabia must be defeated in the opening match before a tough - and likely decisive - match against Egypt. Uruguay will be tough to beat in their final group match.

About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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