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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Young Blood Face Boys From Brazil

The Russian national soccer team will face its biggest challenge yet this season Wednesday when it takes on the world champions, Brazil, at Moscow's Dinamo stadium.


The match means a lot more for the hosts than for the flamboyant South Americans.


After the Euro 96 fiasco, Russia has had to rebuild its team with major changes in the squad. There are twelve new, young faces mainly taken from the domestic league.


The only noticeable exception among newcomers is the selection of Oleg Salenko, top scorer in the 1994 World Cup, who was persistently left out for almost two years by former coach Oleg Romantsev.


Russia's poor form in the European Championships in England this summer cost Romantsev his job. His assistant, Boris Ignatiev, took over and quickly dropped veterans Dmitry Kharin, Igor Shalimov and Igor Dobrovolsky. Ignatiev has left the door open for forward Sergei Kiryakov, who was singled out by Romantsev as the trouble-maker in a well-publicized mutiny against the coach.


"I always had good relations with Ignatiev in the past and I'm sure we can work together in the future," Kiryakov said, as quoted by the German news agency, SID.


The Brazil game is Russia's last before their opening World Cup qualifying match against Cyprus on Sept. 1 in Moscow.


The team faced heavy criticism on their return from England with local media blaming the weak opposition Russia faced prior to Euro 96 for their poor showing against Italy and Germany.


Ignatiev thinks playing Brazil on the eve of the World Cup opener should silence the critics, but also countered them by saying: "The Germans played Luxembourg before the European Championships and still won the title."


Germany crushed Luxembourg 9-1 a week before their Euro 96 triumph.


Ignatiev said he didn't mind facing the world champions in his coaching debut.


"I feel like a first-grader on Sept. 1," he said. "I hope we will not disappoint our fans."


Wednesday's match will be the 11th meeting between the two teams. Brazil has won six times to Russia's three and, despite the absence of some established stars like Romario, will start as favorites. The team won't be lacking in world class players though, with Bebeto, Leonardo and the $20 million dollar man Ronaldo in the lineup. Tickets will be available before the game with the kick-off at 7 p.m.