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The Russian national team is always a fascinating mix of players coming from the most diverse backgrounds. The huge country produces top talents continuously and has seen a constant influx of talents over the years. However, there has always been a sense of underachievement at the international level, highlighted by two consecutive group-stage exits at Euro 2012 and 2016.



Those came on the back of their highest-placed finish in a while, bronze at Euro 2008. Now, with the 2020 edition set to kickoff, Russia have a chance of emulating their fascinating run at the 2018 World Cup. They reached the quarter-finals on their home soil, defeating Spain along the way.



Though they have new faces, this team cannot be taken lightly. FootTheBall will be analysing one of those new entrants into the national side, Aleksandr Sobolev, and why he is set to ‘boom’ at this competition after some strong performances at club level.



The 24-year-old striker plays for Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League. His journey to the top, however, has been far from conventional. He played for lower division sides in rural Siberia, Tom Tomsk, Krylia Samara, and Yenisey Krasnoyarsk. Sobolev kept scoring goals no matter the club, and really burst onto the scene in 2019-20.



Playing for Krylia, he scored seven times in the first 10 games, and a big move was in the offing. That materialised in the January transfer window of 2020, with Sobolev finally getting his dream move. In his first full season with his new club, Sobolev found the net 14 times and added four assists from 22 appearances.



Spartak finished second in the league, but it was all good news for their striker. He was called up to the national team for the first time in 2020 and made his debut in October against Sweden. Sobolev has also made it to the Euros squad and the gangly fellow from Siberia will be desperate to leave his mark on the biggest of stages.



Sobolev is one of the tallest strikers in the game. He stands at 6’5’’ which helped him score five of those 14 goals via his head. In addition to that, he is also terrific from the penalty spot, having scored five over the campaign. His finishing over the years has drastically improved as shown by his xG and xA which stood at 11.04 and 3.54. Sobolev comfortably outdid both those markers and a whole lot of others too.



His shot taking P90 and shots on target P90 has increased considerably to 4.14 from 2.44 and 1.24 from 0.86 respectively. This suggests that he has been able to shoot more consistently and place it at goal more often. Sobolev is mostly used in the central striker role, but he can also play just behind the main striker. However, he is not the greatest dribbler in the world with just 45% completed last year.



Furthermore, he is also a bit prone to going into the referee’s book, having been shown 10 yellow cards. Sobolev excels when he receives the ball at his feet, and can get his shot away quickly. His holdup play and strength has also been commended which allows his teammates to join the attack. For his national, as mentioned above, he has been a fairly new starter.



Sobolev has only appeared in six matches so far but has already managed to find the net three times. That is the kind of lethal instincts in front of goal that will be needed by his team. He has been in good touch and a good Euros will be a further vindication of his ever burgeoning talent. Though he will not be expected to run with the ball much or beat defenders for pace, his prowess in the penalty box will be key. Russia need goals and Sobolev will be essential in getting there.



Sobolev will be one of the more important players in this national squad. His form will instil supreme confidence in him and the fact that he has found the net for Russia too will bode well. Furthermore, his tall frame will help in towering over defenders from balls into the box which will make him a key aerial threat.



Sobolev will be found mostly in and around the opposition’s penalty area, making a nuisance of himself. His running in behind them might not be as dangerous as some but he will undoubtedly prove to be a handful. If he is indeed deployed as the furthest man up the pitch, Sobelov will have the main responsibility of getting the goals.



Furthermore, his ability to score from the spot is also another key asset. Thus, we see a multi-faceted danger posed by the Spartak Moscow man and his manager will be hoping he can fire the side onto greater heights.



Russia have been using the 4-3-3 or the 4-3-2-1 extensively. That leaves only one man up top to begin with, which is most likely going to captain Artem Dyzuba himself. The Zenit man has been a devoted servant to that side, and possesses many of the traits that are similar to Sobolev.



Given the fact that Dyzuba also had a productive season himself (20 goals, six assists), he is going to be the starter at least initially. However, it is also certain that Sobolev will see significant game time in this tournament due to his propensity to get goals and the creative mindset to make things happen.



Sobolev has been scouted by Arsenal and Manchester United in the past before he joined Spartak in 2020. The Red Devils have since signed Edinson Cavani, and look unwilling to be back in the race. The Gunners remain a viable candidate, who could use some central attacking options in competition with Alexandre Lacazette.

Other clubs that might get in the mix are Lyon if Memphis Depay does leave, Tottenham if Harry Kane leaves and some of the mid-table clubs across Europe as well. The Euros will be the perfect place for the 24-year-old to showcase his skillset and make a name for himself, with Russia tipped to have a strong run this time around.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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