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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reunified Team Representing Russia

Russia, fielding its first post-Soviet team in a European Championship, will hope the surgery conducted on its frustrated 1994 World Cup squad was more than cosmetic when it debuts against Italy in Liverpool Tuesday.


Two years ago, Russia's World Cup expectations were crushed when half a dozen players revolted against now-former national coach Pavel Sadyrin en route to losing two of three matches and failing to reach the second round.


Team captain Igor Shalimov, Igor Dobrovolsky, Andrei Kanchelskis, Igor Kolyvanov, Vasily Kulkov and Sergei Kiryakov boycotted the tournament in protest over unpaid financial bonuses and what they said were questionable team tactics.


Today, with the well-respected former Spartak Moscow head coach Oleg Romantsev at the helm and calm restored to the once disgruntled squad, five of the six renegades are back in Russian uniform and spirits are high.


"Yes, I regret missing the World Cup," said Kanchelskis last week from the team's training center in Novogorsk, on the eve of departure for England. "But we did what we thought was right and I'd do that all over again if I had to.


"It wasn't just a matter of money as most people believed," he said of the 1994 boycott. "It was a matter of principle. I had to keep my word to my teammates to stick together as a group after the team management betrayed us."


Kanchelskis, 27, said he fully understood at the time what the World Cup meant to him and his professional career.


"It's once in a lifetime experience, and even the great players may never get a second chance to play," he said.


Kanchelskis believes he will get his second chance at the championship in England, where he should feel comfortable after playing the last five seasons for venerable English Premier clubs Manchester United and Everton.


"The mood within the team is different now than two years ago," he said. "We are a disciplined, tight-knit group. But back then, Sadyrin lost control over players even before the team arrived in the United States."